The Longest Hug: A Father’s Goodbye To His Sons

airplane good bye photo by christian haugen

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

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About Alan Bishop

Alan's a writer, television producer and adventurer. He is 20 years into a lifetime of loving with his wife and is a proud Dad to two young men (21 and 18). Through his website The 365 Effect.com  Alan works with individuals and corporations helping them make positive Change while focusing on Being Better Everyday.  Alan's a dedicated fitness enthusiast, a Crossfitter as well as a lifelong lover of the game of golf. You can follow him @the365effect

Comments

  1. Alan, this is a a rite of passage for both you and your sons. For them, it is a journey to to experience all that you have prepared them for and for you, it’s letting them go to experience life.

    What I appreciate about your post is your honesty about how difficult this is for you and how you are adjusting. I commend you fro raising young men who are not afraid of taking chances and feel confident enough to take this trip. Bravo to you and your wife!

  2. Alan Bishop says:

    Hi Marie (or MRJ),

    Thanks very much for the kind words. It’s a learning experience for sure and I am really hoping to help and touch others through this experience. It makes me a better man and Dad in the process.

    Cheers,
    Alan

  3. John Anderson says:

    My nephew wants to move to Thailand to learn muay thai. That’s the same nephew who whined about taking an illegal hit in a tournament. What’s he going to do when knees and elbows are legal? Last fight he lost (he started it and got no sympathy from me), he cried to his mom. On the other hand, like my father I truly believe that life is to be experienced. All life is a risk so even though his parents and grandma are against it, I think let him go. He’s almost 19.

    I understand where you’re coming from. After all the stupid things I did in my youth, I’ve half surprised I’m still here. I understand the difference is you can’t help them, but they can’t be worse than I was in my youth. Sometimes you just have to hope for the best.

    • Alan Bishop says:

      Thanks John,

      Yes, I’m hoping for the best for sure. It’s a grand adventure they are on and I get a front row seat. I left home and was on my own at 15 years old with zero support from my parents so I know they are in a much better place than I was and their also together. What a gift this is for them and something that will bond them for a lifetime.
      Cheers,
      Alan

  4. Alan I understand the ache, and in some ways it never goes away. But the pride that comes from watching them turn into amazing human beings. Its unbelievable!! The first time they wrestle you or outwit you into paying the check at dinner….or they call and say “I’m bringing the steak, the family, and I’m cooking cause we are coming to visit, just cause we want to see you!” That feeling will make the ache seem like nothing……until the call comes…there has been an “incident at work” he’s o.k. but on his way to hospital and it looks like surgery…..then all the parenting comes rushing back and all you want to do is fix it. I guess what I am saying is its temporary, the ache, and its replaced with different and amazing stuff, but you never stop being their parent you just do it differently and its amazing!!

    • Alan Bishop says:

      Thanks for the thoughts Trish.
      I’m already seeing and hearing some of the amazing stuff. It’s been nice to get a few updates from the boys and they are having the adventure of a lifetime. It is amazing and I’ve moved more into appreciation for this grand adventure that they are on.

      So true… we NEVER stop being a parent. It just is a part of who we are.
      Cheers,
      Alan

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