Four years ago I had difficulty when that day came for our daughter to go off to college. We were thrilled that she was going to one of the top liberal arts colleges around. My wife and I were also glad that even though she would be living on campus, the school was just across town. When that day came I was excited and exhilarated by the sight of the campus. I loved my own college experience and the sight of a college campus always thrills me. That first week, though, it hit me. Even though she was only across town, she would not be coming back – not like before. The little girl was growing up and out.
I remembered the first time our daughter walked all the way to our next door neighbor’s house to play with her best friend. I stood on the front porch and watched, unbeknownst to her, making sure she made it safely – it was a thrilling accomplishment for both toddler and parent. Now she was making an even greater trek toward adulthood. I spent that week going through lots and lots of photo albums and putting together a PowerPoint of all the events in my daughter’s life. I had to do something to get out of my funk.
Now my wife and I are so thrilled and proud to have watched our daughter walk across the stage to receive her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Birmingham-Southern College. It is yet another milestone in a life that is remarkably unfolding. It will be a challenging and exciting time for our daughter; it will be a challenging time for us as we face the empty nest.
Insights from Parenting
Parenthood may not be for everyone, but I would have missed so much if I had not become a father. One of the biggest insights for me came when my daughter was a toddler. I was out in the backyard where I had been working all day building a fence. Toward the end of the day, I was hot, sweaty and tired, but still consumed by the task of sawing 4 x 4s, digging post holes, pouring cement, etc. My daughter came out the back door to tell me that Mom said supper was ready and I had to come in. When I looked up at her, the evening sun caught her blonde hair as she was carefully making her way down the back steps (my daughter is like I was – blond-headed as a toddler, then she turned brunette by the time she finished high school). The sight of her filled me with the light of joy and love. In that same instant I realized for the first time that that must have been the same way my own father had looked at me. It was as though I were the giver and the recipient in the very same moment.
Other Things I Realized by Being a Parent
- Childhood is but an instant. My own childhood seemed immense, mythic, a huge chunk of my life, but to my parents it must have just been an all too short segment in their lives together, one of the many things they did together.
- I never really realized how much my parents must have prayed for us, but when I look now with the eyes of a parent, I realize that you do everything you possibly can and then offer constant prayers as your child faces each stage in life.
- Biggest lesson if you didn’t already know, life is not about you.
The Clay is All Dry Now
Even though we want our kids to grow up, we treasure them so that sometimes they have to tell us how old they are. I will never forget the day my daughter and I were going somewhere, about to cross the street. I took her hand before we crossed. She let go and pushed my hand aside, saying something like, “I can cross by myself, Dad.” Ouch, another step away, but it was a healthy step. A couple of years ago, my daughter, then 20, was preparing to go down to the beach for a vacation with one of her friends. My wife was reminding her of all the things she needed to do and watch for, and to remember to call, etc. My daughter said, “Mom, the time of clay is over – I’m all dry now.”
Marriage and parenthood are the two hardest jobs in the world, but by far the most rewarding. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.