A Man Now Stands…Where a Boy Once Sat
by Stephen Doherty
“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress,
and grows brave by reflection.” –Thomas Paine
A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my 22-year old son when a chill ran through my body-signaling me that something extraordinary was happening. As I stared at him across the table-it suddenly dawned on me that my “boy” had been left behind somewhere and that I was now gazing upon a grown man. I smiled inside and out as I recognized the significance of the moment and the excitement of what this next chapter meant to both of us. We were temporarily in that narrow alley between what had been and what was to come.
The first order of business is pretty simple, but not always easy. Letting go of the rope and giving full control of his life over to him. He doesn’t need my protection and oversight anymore. His journey is now his own and my role shifts to trusted advisor and interested observer. He has had the blessing of many good teachers and role models throughout his young life but there is no more effective nor harsher teacher than life itself. That he relishes that reality and looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead, signals that he’s ready and eager to establish himself as Captain of his own vessel and the center of his own universe-not mine.
As for me? My kids were never my life. They were a blessing bestowed upon me from God that came with it an enormous obligation and responsibility that I gladly accepted and enthusiastically undertook. I cannot imagine anything I’ve ever done or anything I’ll ever do that will equal the importance of my role as “Dad” and all that implied. My job was to get them across that harrowing bridge of youth to a point where they could continue and complete the journey without me. Because at the end of the day, all journeys are completed absent those who began it with you.
In my humble opinion, too many parents lose track of their own lives by becoming overly-invested in the lives of their kids. There is a fine line between commitment and obsession and you can see the distinction in the separation anxiety of parents who find it difficult to relinquish the reins on the lives of their kids..and just let them go when that moment arrives. To me, one of the best examples we can give our kids on how to live their lives is by living our own with zest and gusto! I love my kids with all my heart but there is no greater joy than opening the gate and setting them free to live their own lives absent our shadow but with the knowledge that the road home will always be lit.
The final and beautiful chapter in all this? Over time, our lives once merged, will converge as separate entities with an amazing and loving common bond. Our little girls will someday become women and we will once again become (grand) parents, which apparently allows for all of the joys and pleasures absent all the duties and responsibilities. Our little boys will become men and guardians of their own domains but thankfully will never outgrow throwing a baseball around in the front yard. We turn them loose, and they come back again and again and again, each time leaving us something more memorable and worthwhile. Such is the beauty of true freedom and independence—the ultimate gift of a parent and the gift that never stops giving.
“The young man knows the rules, but the old man
knows the exceptions.” –Oliver Wendall Holmes