I remember my first day of
and my last day of college - clearly, like they were yesterday.
Those two days book-ended an interval of seventeen years
which seemed to last for eternity. That's not a complaint. I'm not
saying it "seemed to last for eternity" like I wanted it to be over,
like I wanted it to end. To the contrary, those were great times. Truly
great. I was in no hurry for them to finish. There was simply a sense
they would never end, a sense they would last forever, like there was
no end in sight.
my three children
spent almost the same amount of time at
and college as I did. Add on a few years to account for their three
year age range, and the fact that
continued on for a second Masters degree, and the total time elapsed
for all three of them to complete
and college, was around twenty two years. But their twenty
two years flew by in a flash. From their first day at
to their last day at college, the time blew by at a blistering pace.
Then one day they were gone. The nest was empty ... just ... like ...
that. It was over way to soon. I didn't want it to
end. I wanted it to continue. In fact I was just getting into my stride
with it. I was just getting good at it. But it was over.
For sure. Of that there was no doubt. Although this day came as no
surprise, it felt oddly disconcerting. "What now?" and
became my uncertain questions of the hour.
Having gotten my job done raising them, having gotten my job done
ensuring they're best equipped to fly and get on with their own lives,
the empty nest provided a stark
to how much I missed those little guys, my buddies, my
The bittersweet victory of having succeeded in raising them and
equipping them to run their own lives, only to lose them as we all
do to Life itself, landed like a
if ever there was one. And
points out) is one of the two guardians of the gates to the temple of
truth (the other, by the way, being
The thing I finally figured out is I can't figure this out unless I'm
to figuring it out (there's nothing intuitive about it).
That said, here's the second thing I figured out:
It's a neverending process, this being a parent. The hardest part of
it, especially now that they've left home, is staying out of their
way so they can ongoingly discover their own lives for
themselves. Make no error: it's a fine line. If I stay too
far out of their way, I'm no support at all. If I stay too
close, I'm an interference in the process. And the thing about
it is parenthood doesn't come with a manual with clear
instructions for doing this exactly right. You kind of just have to
figure out the balance for yourself.
car developed transmission trouble. If you know what it costs to repair
a transmission, you know it's a better deal to buy a new car. I could
a new car. But that's not really a gift. Not really. Instead, the gift
I gave him was "Let me know if you need me to contribute to your
transmission repair bill or to the cost of a new car.". He said "Thanks
Dad, but I think I can earn this by myself.". Paying his transmission
repair bill or buying him a new car would deprive him of that win.
Offering to contribute if needed, makes my support clear without
getting in his way.
has registered for a two year commercial diving course. He's up for
college fees, diving equipment, and living expenses for two years. I
could write him a check for all of it. But that's not really a gift.
Not really. Instead, the gift I gave him was "Let me know if you need
me to contribute to your college fees or diving equipment or living
expenses.". He said "Thanks Dad, but I'm going to get a job to pay for
this by myself.". Paying his college fees and living expenses or buying
him diving equipment would deprive him of that win. Offering to
contribute if needed, makes my support clear without getting in his
of being a parent is it doesn't matter if I do my job well or if I
don't do it well or even if I don't do it at all. Either way, I
anyway when they fly the nest - as they assuredly will. The challenge,
however, is to do my job well, then get out of their way so they can
live their own fruitful lives independent of me. Now this
is about as fulfilling as it gets.