Last week I took my eldest son to the airport. Waved goodbye. An adult now, making his own decisions, carving out his own life. When did that happen? The walk back to the car was long and full of mixed emotions.
I love being a dad. I think I learned from the best. As a parent, I’ve experienced the highest of peaks and the lowest of troughs. I’ve come to learn that life isn’t a smorgasbord; you don’t get to pick and choose what happens to you, what you get to see and feel.
Recently, my eldest boy finished his degree. I was there when he was born and I’ve been a keen participant in his life ever since. At some point along the way, without me noticing, things switched from taking it easy during a wrestle in the backyard to waking up and wincing, thinking, ‘Gee, I’m sore.’
Before our eyes we observe the changes without picking up on the cues. That first hair turning black on the upper lip to the fluffy growth spreading over the jaw. Not sure when the other changes started – probably around the time they stopped running naked through the house and started wrapping a towel tightly around their waist when leaving the bathroom.
Looking back, I can remember the last time my youngest son slept in my bed. He never started the night there, but always ended up alongside me before dawn, scared of the noises outside and what he imagined lurking under his bed.
What I didn’t appreciate was that the last time he crawled into my bed was the last time. Months later, it dawned on me that he’d been sleeping in his own bed the whole night through. It used to annoy me, now I regret that I didn’t fully appreciate that fleeting moment when he saw me as the protector and a safe place to sleep.
As your kids enter adulthood, how do you think your behaviours have influenced them? How would they describe you, your habits? Will they grow up to be like you or (as we all hope) a better version?
Lead by example, instil good habits, give them the best opportunity to have a positive relationship with others and money. Teach them to ask for help, seek advice, and demonstrate the importance of respect and simply being nice.
I hope I have been an influence for good like my dad was for me.
My eldest boy rang me during his stop-over. He’d watched a movie on the first leg and the song that played over the credits was Cat Stevens’ Father and Son. We may have been thousands of kilometres apart, but he still reached out to me in a moment of vulnerability. That felt nice.
It might sound weird but I have found myself going into his bedroom over the past week rather than walking past it. I can smell him in there and it makes me close my eyes and smile.
I miss him, but I don’t wish he was here. His smile on FaceTime is enough to tell me he’s doing the right thing and making the right decisions. He’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him, which makes me happy (and proud) in turn.
Bringing them up or letting them go, I’m not sure which is harder. What do you think?