Our entire relationship and everything it heralds, is transformed. And yes, I really do mean "transformed" not "changed". It's not a trivial distinction. They're adults now. They're no longer children - even though in a very real sense they'll always never not be my children. Now that they've each passed their twenty first birthday, they're responsible for their own lives, for their own choices, for their own futures - legally, morally, ethically, completely. The relationship they have with me today is that which they create freely and newly ongoingly. It's a new era, an era in which I'm no longer by default the great yet benevolent dictator in the relationship.
For the most part (with a couple of noteworthy "I shoulda known better"s) I've done the best I possibly could, getting them to this point, the point when they must leave the nest for good. Getting them out of the nest wasn't a task I particularly relished (does any parent really relish this task when the time to do it comes - as it inexorably, inevitably will?). Yet I knew (as any parent knows) if they're going to master the wonders (indeed the glories) of flight, it's required they get out of the nest and spread their wings.
What's awaiting them when they get out of the nest and spread their wings is success, accomplishment, reward, thrilling adult love, and their own families, and all the many great things life on our planet has to offer - which is to say all the opportunities they'll create for themselves in their lives. That's what I want for them. That's what I'm rooting for. Yet as challenging as all that is, all that's actually the easy stuff. It's likely they'll get some or most of it just by being here, just by being alive, just by being who they are. They're great kids. They're good people. And I want to be there to participate in all their celebrations of all their successes.
What also awaits them, for better or for worse, are their own trials, their own struggles, their own figuring it all out (or, if they're smart, their own not figuring it all out). They will learn. Man! they will learn ... and I'll be here for them as often as they want me here. If I'm going to be any good as a father, the crucial task is yet ahead: it will be to stay out of their way as they go through whatever they'll go through in whatever way they'll go through it as they take on and master their own lives. This is what the measurement of whether I got my job done or not, will be: how prepared they are to stand for themselves and for their lives and for Life itself.
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