I’m not very nostalgic. Purging old stuff from my basement and garage is usually only difficult because of the work involved, not because of the sentimental value of the treasures buried in dust and cobwebs.
I don’t attach much emotion to things – which is good from a hording standpoint, but probably not when it comes to kids artwork. I remember getting caught by one of my kids once when I threw out one of their masterpieces from Kindergarten. They were mortified that I didn’t want to treasure every object they came in contact with. I’m just not wired that way.
The same ideology applied to how I raised my kids – there was never a time that I sat up late at night, rocking one my precious, fevered little darlings back to sleep where I thought ‘I wish this feeling would never end’. In fact, I couldn’t wait to see what great adventures were laid before us – what these smelly little diaper destroyers would eventually become.
I also wished I remembered what a full nights sleep felt like.
When we brought our first-born home from the hospital, I remember sitting in the living room after the whole birth ordeal, wondering ‘what do we do with him now?’. For me, it was far more exciting to see what would happen next, than clinging to things past.
I guess I just associate more with the here and now, than the days gone by. I’m pretty sure all the Facebook psychologists will have a field day with these thoughts.
I don’t want to suggest that I’m not the proudest Dad in the world at how they’ve turned out. I am! Heck, based on how I saw my parenting skills, I’m actually surprised that they beat the odds! I guess my wife was the tipping point factor for them.
We’ve been dealing with our Son’s transition to adulthood for the past couple of years as he’s been living in another city while going to University. This fall, our daughter will be doing the same.
Our ground school lessons are over – now it’s time for the kids to fly. Amazing, exciting times.
We’ve been frantically completing all her applications, payments, etc., with a mix of frustration and excitement for the past few months. These are incredible times for her and for us. It’s also been hectic enough that we haven’t (okay, I haven’t) really stopped to think about what this means.
Yesterday though, it hit me.
We were at the store, getting some kitchen supplies for her new home on campus. As we filled the cart with dishes and tea towels, the sudden weight of what was coming hit me like a school bus. Our baby will be leaving home.
It actually surprised me, feeling like I did. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but there I was, staring down at this pile of independence; cutlery, dishes, a can opener. I think it was the stupid can opener that got me. That’s the clear sign that she’s leaving. You can mentally quantify the other stuff, but a kitchen gadget like a can opener means they’ll be doing things on their own from now on.
Again, I’m not nostalgic, so I’m trying to think of all the upsides of not having a kid in the house.
No more checking in to see that she’s up in the morning, or cleaning up the kitchen after you’re pretty damn sure you cleaned it up before you went to bed last night. No more of your stuff being moved from where you left it.
No more lights left on all night, or having to close the bedroom door because the ‘night owls’ don’t sleep like normal people do, and they wake you up with their stomping around all night.
We’ll be able to eat dinner where we want, when we want, and what we want. We won’t have to think about anyone else (except the dog, of course). GROCERY BILLS CUT IN HALF!
So, why am I so stuck on that stupid can opener? Have I suddenly tapped the nostalgic emotion, hidden away all these years? Will I suddenly find myself digging through old pictures and trophies, recalling how I felt at the time, creating a shrine of what my kids used to be?
That can opener, I think, is a metaphor for where we are with our kids. They will use the tools we’ve given them to leave the ‘can’ and set out to start their own lives. It’s out of our hands now. They’re turning the crank, not us.
Like I was almost 2 decades ago, anticipating what will come next, I’ll be cheering on my kids and underestimating just how awesome they’ll turn out, but those 2 decades left a legacy. You can’t ignore how profoundly your life changed because of them. For the better.
Maybe I am getting a bit nostalgic. Maybe I’ll spend a little time looking through old pictures, remembering how I felt at the time. Maybe that’s what I’ve learned from my kids. That time we spent together, figuring out life as we went along, was the stuff of life. Those crafts from Kindergarten weren’t just construction paper and glue – they were the milestones that I kept looking for – those ‘next great things’ that I couldn’t wait to see.
Sure, having the house to ourselves will be great in many ways, but I figure it’ll be about a week before we wish they were back home again. Maybe the can opener won’t work, and we’ll have to swoop in and save her from her independence.
As much as I might wish that, I sure hope it doesn’t happen. Leaving the nest is just another step for kids. A painful, thrilling, sad, exhilaratingly huge step.
And I couldn’t be more proud.