Have we done our job?

Well, here it is. It came way too fast. When we started out all those years ago, it seemed like it would take forever to reach this point. But it didn’t. We reached this point in the blink of an eye.

My husband and I intentionally waited until our 30s. We wanted to have a chance to explore the world ourselves, have time to do the things we wanted to do, before we were responsible for another human. We felt we would be more established, struggle less financially, have more patience. Little did we know the greatest gift we would ever be blessed with was the gift of parenthood.

As our delivery nurse (and now friend) Carol McInerney remarked to us during my moment of self-doubt before we took our son home from the hospital, “All you have to do is feed them, change them, and love them. Everything else will work out.” We used those words often during the baby phase.

A few short years later, our daughter was born and our family was complete. We had much more confidence in our abilities, and in the fact that every challenge is temporary.

There’s nothing like the instant, deeply moving, unconditional love a parent feels for this new life placed in their hands. You are thrilled, anxious and even feel undeserving of such a special gift from above.

And now 20+ years later, I am having some of those same feelings again. Our eldest, our son, took it easy on us and stayed close to home. He will be a junior in secondary education at BHSU this fall. But our daughter is launching farther out there and will be two states away as she goes off to college to start her journey to further her education. We are thrilled at the prospect of her having a career in medicine. We are also anxious that she will be an 11-hour drive away from home and that we’ll no longer be able to be there at a moment’s notice to help her if needed. At times we feel underserving of this child, as in what exactly did we manage to do right that gave her the confidence to go so far from home, be determined about her abilities, and have her plan laid out for how she expects to make a positive difference in this world?

My heart is soaring and heavy all at the same time. How will my day be complete without my daily hugs from her? Without hearing her talk about her day at school? Seeing the distinct pile of shoes from her friends at our kitchen door? Hearing nearly simultaneous screaming and laughter coming from our basement as she and her group of friends watch a scary movie?

And now the silly things creep in. Will she get enough sleep? Will she eat properly? Will she go to church? Have we taught her enough about being cautious and careful, without making her paranoid? My husband has joked that he can live in a tent by our daughter’s dorm for the first few weeks, just in case she needs him. I don’t think it’s a totally bad idea; our daughter does.

It is going to be hard. But parents survive this stage, too. I know we are not the first, nor will we be the last to say goodbye to our kids as we send them off into the world. This has been our goal all along: To raise happy, healthy, independent adults. And if we’ve done it correctly, they will know how to handle life’s ups and downs and be stronger people for it. 

As one of our good friends remarked when we both had our first babies, “The owner’s manual sucks.” I’m not convinced the owner’s manual is any better at this young adult stage, either. It will indeed be a difficult day for my husband and me when we drive away from our daughter’s campus. We know we can’t always be there for either of our kids, but if we’ve done our job right, our words and deeds will remain as a guide with them forever.

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