They say life begins when the dog dies and the kids leave home.
Let me dispel that myth. The dog never dies. But the kids do leave home … eventually. It happens when they can’t stand another minute of having their parents embarrass them constantly.
I wish I could remember when they began to notice. Tell me, at what point did our children suddenly become so sensitive?
Why, it seems like only yesterday that my husband, Bill, and I sat in our rural home cuddling our newly arrived little one. What peace. What joy. What a proud parental moment as friends sat adoringly nearby.
Then without warning, this serene babe-in-arms emitted sounds like the launching of the space shuttle, with a smile and no shame. If we hadn’t have had company, we’d have left home.
But somewhere between infancy and puberty, parents become the embarrassing party. It’s tough for parents to take, especially after making heroic efforts to always be there for them. Never counting the extra miles for the “right” burger.
No matter, a teenage mind is like an elephant’s. They never forget … unless it’s remembering to do their homework. Still, when it comes to grievances against their parents, the memory bank kicks in. And believe me, it can be full.
Like the one time — and only time — we drove our old dusty farm truck to a parent conference. To this day, our kids still hold a grudge. Even as adults, they argue that we should have unloaded the mountain of manure first. Now that’s thanks for you, and after they’re the ones who had begged us for a horse.
I guess parents and the humiliation we bring are the big reasons why teens rarely come out of their bedroom — except for money or the car. Then they disappear back into that black hole, content with dirty socks and notes from the school office that are stuffed under their bed. There they count the days until they can ride off into the sunset. Not on their horse, naturally, but in their parents’ car.
As we all know, a child who leaves home is nothing new, and most of the time they come back. Usually it’s with armloads of dirty laundry.
In some ways, this passage in life reminds me of the prodigal son in the Bible. He couldn’t wait to leave his parents’ house. Like a lot of kids, he was fed up with his everyday life. After all, it seemed so shamefully boring.
But later when he discovered his new day-to-day living wasn’t that great, he decided to come home. What he found were parents that weren’t such a bad lot after all. Plus, his father had watched and waited for him every single day, greeting him with open arms.
Sometimes God’s children are a lot like the young man in the story.
We’ve decided to leave his house and never set foot in there again. We have our reasons, and we know they’re good ones. Then, once we’re out the door we no longer have to admit to others that we’re part of God’s family. It limits our lifestyle and can be downright awkward. After all, to a lot of our friends, spending Sundays at church just isn’t cool.
But after a while, we may feel like we miss it; that sense of “family” and the ambiance that can fill our hearts with joy and peace.
So, if you’re in a faraway place in your life and you’d like to come home, don’t hesitate. Like the father in the story, God is waiting to welcome you with open arms and unconditional love.
Oh, and don’t be embarrassed to bring all your dirty laundry. He promises to wash it whiter than snow.
Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the spiritual life editor for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.