Alan Bishop’s sons are off to travel the world. And as he watches them leave he thinks “Have I done enough?”
A hug was all I could muster up.
I wanted to speak. I wanted to pass on those final words of wisdom and advice but a hug was all I was capable of.
A long, crushing hug for each of my boys.
My wife and I’ve just dropped off our 2 boys at the Vancouver International Airport and their next stop would be a city in China that I can’t even pronounce. The boys left Canada en-route to South East Asia for at least the next 4 months.
They’re off on their own, only 21 and 17 years old, embarking on a journey that will forever change their lives.
As I sit here writing this I’m a blubbering, soggy mess of a man.
The boys have been gone less than 2 hours but already I’m missing them. I’ve an ache in my chest that’s consuming me. Now 4 months may not seem like a long time to you but to me, right now it’s an eternity.
Cayce isn’t attending University any more in town just 2 hours away because he finished his degree a year early and this was his reward to himself.
Josh isn’t at the school playing high school football because he graduated in June.
Cayce came home last Christmas and told the family of his plans to graduate early from university and then to travel the world. He then looked right at his brother and told him he couldn’t think of anyone else whom he would want to travel the world with. He asked Josh if he wanted to join him once he finished high school and before he started his university degree. Josh jumped at the chance.
That dinner table moment set in motion last Christmas was just realized.
They’re now on their way to on the other side of the world to experience LIFE. I can’t physically help them or reach out to them. The world is on their terms now…not mine.
My wife and I have now moved into a new phase of life.
“Contrary to all we hear about women and their empty-nest problem, it may be fathers more often than mothers who are pained by the children’s imminent or actual departure–fathers who want to hold back the clock, to keep the children in the home for just a little longer. Repeatedly women compare their own relief to their husband’s distress” – Lillian Breslow Rubin
It’s not like my wife and I haven’t joked about and made light of this moment for the last few months.
“Empty Nesters… YAHOOO”
“I don’t have to close the door anymore when I take my morning shit.
“Our second sexual revolution will commence as soon as the kids are wheels up”
“Food, glorious food will be in fridge and my specialty meats will be there when I want my afternoon snack”
But right now the ache…
I’m left wondering if this is what the next phase of my life is going to be like? How long will it be filled with this deep and gut wrenching ache.
I pride myself on being a great Dad. It’s one of the most important things in my life.
I’ve NEEDED to be a good Dad, not just for my wife and boys but for me as well. I never had a parental model, my Dad was an asshole, so I’ve strived to be the best one that I can be.
I made a commitment to my wife to co-parent and we have worked tirelessly to ensure a good family for the boys. We’ve done the good cop/bad cop. I’ve laid down the law as well as bent the rules for each of the boys. We’ve tried to model behavior that will set our boys up for success.
I think the most important thing that we have done is to adhere to this one rule: “Whatever interaction we have with the boys must enhance their self-esteem not tear it down”.
I’ve taken this rule seriously.
Maybe I’ve taken it so seriously because I needed to model what I never had…or better yet and using the words that became one of my mantras “to break the cycle”.
But is this it? Have I done what’s needed to be done? Are my children raised? I’ve tried to teach them how to “Sharpen their steel”.
“Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.” – Democritus
It’s out of my hands. My wife and I can do nothing because they’re gone.
I can’t jump in the truck to go rescue them like I’ve done when they’ve needed a ride home from a party.
I can’t respond to a text message asking me what time do they need to be home for dinner because they’ve deactivated their phones and they won’t be home for dinner.
I can’t show up at the field to watch them play football (how I loved to watch them play) because those high school days are now long gone.
I’m wondering have I done enough? Have I prepared them for the known as well as the unknown?
“Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves” – Robert Neelly Bellah
I guess it’s not up to me now. It’s up to them.
This is what letting your kids go looks and feels like. It’s now about watching them become the young men that we’ve worked tirelessly for them to become…or not.
They’re as prepared as I can ever make them and it’s up to them to figure it out.
They get to put together the Ikea Bed of LIFE…not me.
Now on to that second sexual revolution.
Photo: Christian Haugen / flickr