Facing the Empty Nest with Sociological Imagination

I love my family.  My wife and our three kids have enjoyed 25 summers in our home on Irving. We also have great relationships with our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews; most of whom live less than 4 hours away.  This last week has been difficult for me emotionally; our youngest, our only daughter is moving out.  The big house that has been our happy home is becoming a huge empty nest.  Our middle son is getting married this fall and the other two will both likely be married within a few years.  Changes: growth, new beginnings, and the close of an era.

I am really excited about the future. For one thing, our children all have great fiancés / boyfriend.  This week we went out for dinner for my wife’s birthday and I was reminded how wonderful it is to have adult children.  I am thankful, yet I still find myself feeling sorry for myself as I miss what no longer is.  I realize that in part  I grieve the passing of the past precisely because it has been so full and wonderful.

ImageIn the midst of my tumultuous emotions I then feel a twinge of shame.  Why?  I’ve had so much, yet most of the world have never known a fraction of the joys I often take for granted.  I was grieved that after 20 years of tradition, we had no “back to school picture” to take this year with our kids on the front porch.   Then I thought of how many have never know a stable home, often moving every few months and never having a place they can call their own.  I grieve that my daughter is moving across town, but then I consider the families whose children have had to move across borders, knowing they may never be able to embrace again.  I grieve that my home is no longer filled daily with my children and their friends, but then I think of all the fathers and children who have never known the joy of togetherness and love to begin with.

In addition to being blessed with the familial experiences I’ve shared, my life has been greatly enriched through enduring friendships with persons on the flip side of each experience listed above.  Not as clients, not as case studies, not as characters in a movie, not as the OTHER but as friends and brothers.  This has been a great gift, allowing me to love my family more deeply and yet to better see my place in a complex world.  Sociological imagination opens to door for us to see beyond our experiences and to see the sociological forces at play in our lives and in the lives of others.  Relationships across class, culture and place allow us to add color and emotion to that imagination.  It is the context of my family and my community, a deep well of connection, from which flows my thoughts about issues of immigration, racism, and what true community can be.

As congress prepares to reconvene, I am planning to post a few articles pointing to the need for immediate immigration reform.  I hope the stories that follow can spark sociological imagination sufficiently  to push us past the political diatribes, so that we can consider the real lives that now struggle without the basic securities that I have so enjoyed:  Stability in a home, Connection to family, Security in a community.

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