I always knew that with three kids, time would run together and I would be an official carpool parent for an extended period of time. When my oldest son, James, was first born, people said time would fly by and I would be surprised at how fast it occurred. I thought to myself, like every parent does: “How can 18 years fly by?”. Well I am here to tell you it does!
I am sitting here with just a few months left before James heads off to college. We don’t know where he will end up, but we have a 1 in 7 guess based on the applications that he has submitted. It is hard to think how difficult these next few months will be knowing that my little boy will be moving out and going someplace where I can’t see him every day. The house will seem different with him not being around and causing some sort of ruckus and the daily routines will certainly change.
As I think about the upcoming transition, I have realized a few things. First, it really has dawned on me that it has been the small things that have been important and not the big life events. Of course a number of examples come to mind, but best example, I can share is a tradition that started when James was first born. Almost every night, since James was a little boy, I have kissed him (and his siblings) good night. For those nights that I was traveling and not at home, I would call home at exactly 8:30 to say good night. It didn’t matter where I was in the world and what time it was for me, if it was 8:30 for him, I would be on the phone saying good night and asking about his day. I have never found anyone: a client, employee or boss that didn’t appreciate the ritual and effort in being there for my kids. There were times it was a hard goal to accomplish and I had to ask my wife for help. Most of those times were when we lived in California and I was in Europe or Africa. The time difference made it so that she had to call and wake me up from a sound sleep. I can’t say I was very coherent, but at least I got to hear his voice.
As he got older, it became easier to either miss a kiss good night or a call home. I realized recently that I was not living up to the promise I made to him those many years ago. I am not sure what promoted me to start making sure that I kissed them goodnight every night again, but I think I just missed doing it and restarted what should have never ended. Only after I became consistent again with my nightly habit, did I discover how important that was for James and all of my kids. They have all shared with me, independently, that they looked forward to those calls and my kisses good night. It was one to those things that they knew they could count every night.
A friend recently shared with me that my kids won the “Dad lottery” with me. It was a very kind thing to say and one that I appreciated very much. Is it true? Who knows. All I can say is that I try; That is the best I can do. But I also think that I won the Dad lottery with my own Dad. I don’t think I knew it growing up, but I watched what my own father did and I and I learned by his example. The way that he was there to support us, to guide us and teach us how to become an independent adult made me who I am today. I certainly am not perfect; and while my father would say he was not either, I can tell you I could not have asked for better.
Since having my own son, I have realized how similar my father and I are. Not just in looks, but in actions, traits and how we think. People have told me that James is a “Mini-me”. His speech inflections, his habits, his way of thinking; I certainly didn’t try and cause any of that to occur. But I guess that the apple truly does not fall far from the tree. And that is a good thing.
As next summer will come to a close, I will reflect on those things I have been able to accomplish and be thankful. I will also know that I did the best I could. I will not be regretful, but happy for those moments that I have had with James. It will not be the end, but the beginning of our next phase of life. I will also be confident that it will be the small things that will be important to him as he goes on to becoming an adult and hope that he focuses on those small success rather always looking for a great big thing.
These next few months will not be easy; But they will be exciting. I am sure I will shed a tear or two, but I will also be happy as I can say that I have been able to help mold James into a fine young man that he is today.