A parents' perspective.
Pacific University- Forest Grove, Oregon.
That's where my son is attending college. He gets to play baseball there as a pitcher. In my fantasy he will be able to play two ways and be their center fielder too ;-p
This is the sort of stuff we talk about when it comes to our kids and parenting. We talk about our dreams for them and how proud we are of them for their accomplishments. We also complain about some of the many non-angelic things they do, especially when they are getting full bore into their teens. But rarely do we talk about how their growth impacts our growth.
It's MMA in the house
When my son turned 13, we got him a phone.
He was literally the only kid on the bus and almost anywhere else we frequented that did not have a phone at that time.
It was maybe the worst thing I ever did.
From that day on, we fought EVERY day.
Every. Single. Day.
He would be on that thing every minute of his life.
We tried everything.
Setting time limits.
Restrictions on the wifi.
But you know what?
They are smarter than you.
There is always a work around and YOU don't know what they are.
And even if you did, do you really want to spend your day trying to outsmart your teenager for screen time that YOU provided for them?
Oh, the irony.
My big pet peeve when it came to screen time was that he would ignore the family and talk "through his phone" at me.
I guess that's technically two things isn't it?
Anyway, what is talking through the phone?
You know, when they hold up the phone or hold it "inconspicuously" on their lap and "secretly" look at it while you are talking to them.
Drove me crazy!
But mostly it was his lack of engagement with the rest of the family.
He would just check out and be more concerned with Instagram or tiktok or whatever kids do on their phones than spend time with anyone in the family.
So one day when I had had enough I sat him down and talked to him about it.
I told him that his little sister doesn't really like being with him because he only wants to engage when it suits him and that is very obvious when you are a kid. She didn't like being a relationship of convenience so if you want to have a relationship with her, you better put your phone aside sometimes and make an effort to build a relationship with her on HER time.
Sounds like wisdom right?
Well, I thought so too.
But nothing really changed.
For some time...
But little by little, I noticed that he would come home and immediately start playing with his baby sister.
He also started to call my wife when he was leaving school, or practice, or whatever to let her know what he had planned or that he was coming home.
There were signs of a shift.
And I learned an important lesson:
When it comes to our children and parenting, we don't allow enough time.
We want change in a day or weeks or maybe even months. But our timeframe has to be longer.
We need to take the long view-years.
They hear you.
It just takes time to make changes in behavior and process who you are at that time, and who you want to be.
Is that any less true for any of us?
Thirteen. That was the worst year of my parenting life.
When my son was just 1 year old, we had a block party in our old neighborhood. This is where we met our family friends, the Aras.' Their little girl was the same age as our first born.
The two dads were off to the side when he said the most profound thing anyone has ever said to me as a parent.
"You only have 16 summers."
"After that they go off to college and you are essentially done. You may be able to eek out some family trips here and there but it will never be the same."
It shifted my commitments from that moment on.
As a parent, your mind focuses on the things you "believe" are important, like being a good provider and having fancy summer vacations...but in reality, the most important thing you can provide is time.
It's true for any relationship, isn't it? ;-)
Lisa and I had decided that we were going to focus our efforts on giving as much time to our kids as we could. That would mean that I would be less financially successful and she would have to put huge amounts of energy into raising our kids and navigating basically everything that is involved with family time. (If you are a mom, you know what I am talking about).
We wanted to make sure that we could get the most of our time together with the kids and secretly try to squeeze out 18 summers.
We always said that if we could get 18 instead of 16, that would be a blessing.
Let me tell you, even 18 goes so fast.
You have no idea where the time went.
Your time commitment basically boils down to being there.
Being there for freezing cold horse shows, traveling to the middle of nowhere for baseball games, driving all over creation to pick up and drop off. It's exhausting.
What you won't give to be miserable again
But then they grow up.
They enter their senior year in high school and you start to feel this small ache in your heart that tells you something is going to change.
Something is going to shift in your life that you are woefully unprepared for.
I am reminded of when Lisa was first pregnant and our "planning" for having a child.
We read the books.
We took the classes.
We talked to people who already had kids.
We remodeled and "nested" and tried to get a handle on what was about to happen to our lives.
Like I said before, we were woefully unprepared.
Because you cannot prepare to be a parent.
There is no good book.
There is no good class.
You just have to do it.
You only know what it takes AFTER you have your kid.
It's trial by fire.
And let me tell you, nobody does it "right" but unless you are guilty of criminal acts against your kids, nobody does it "wrong" either.
We all just share membership in the club whose basic pre-requisite is to be confused and struggling to do the best that you can and never feeling quite adequate.
Geez, it's like high school.
But then they graduate and the shift into adulthood happens.
There is no going back.
And they are no longer your babies.
You will never again be the most important person in their lives.
You will never again feel the pure love and joy of having them scream "daddy!" and run to your arms when you walk into the house.
They have grown up and must live their lives, just like you did.
And that's the cycle.
It's so hard.
All you want is to be awoken in the middle of the night to change diapers.
To suffer freezing cold wind and rain watching a meaningless competition.
To fight over cleaning their rooms or picking up after themselves.
I have not gone into my sons room since he left.
Now I totally understand why parents keep their kids rooms exactly the way they left it.
It occupies a space that has been left void.
Your evolution involves others...sometimes it's your kids
Like I said earlier, everyone tells you about how great it is and how proud they are of their kids. What people don't talk about enough is how hard it is.
When we moved my son into his college dorm, it was exciting and hectic and exhausting. But it was good because we didn't have time to process all that was happening.
But on our last day, when the to-do list was complete, my wife looked at me and said,
"I don't know how to say goodbye. How do we transition out of here?"
I realize this meant a lot more than just getting in our cars and driving away.
It was saying goodbye to who he was and who we were.
He was evolving into his next self but so were we.
When I dropped off my boy, I was heartbroken.
I have been grieving the loss of my baby.
And I am struggling with my new evolution that involves him being an adult and I no longer being the major person in his life.
We go from being the top of the totem pole of importance in their lives to the bottom.
Quite a shift.
And one I am grateful for my son.
So for all you parents out there that have felt as I, welcome me to your club.
The "It's okay to grieve the growth of your kids, that's our jobs-Club."
We should make T-shirts.
We should definitely have more conversations about it, that's for sure.