I loathe goodbyes. It’s not like she had never been away from home. For the last two years, she lived in an apartment at college. But this was different. She was packing EVERYTHING. It was moving day and I thought I had everything under control. Well, actually THEY had everything under control. I wasn’t exactly sure of my role anymore. I thought I would be part of a caravan helping to transport all of their collective “stuff” to a neighboring state…until I learned they wanted to do it all themselves. Why should I have been surprised? Every parenting decision I had made up until this point had been made with the end in mind. My goal was to help create young ladies who could successfully navigate life without me. I suspect his parents subscribed to some of my beliefs as well in order to have created a college-educated, card-carrying adult who assumed the role of husband just after he turned 22. So on the appointed day, I got up early to cook a farewell breakfast. She was so excited because I rarely do that anymore. We sat at the table and chatted like we were at The Last Supper. There was excitement in the air. They were heading off on their own personal adventure, free from parental rule. I was excited to start a new role in my life. But there was also an underlying current of uncertainty. What if I hadn’t taught her everything she needed to know before she ventured out into the great unknown? If I were them, I may have been thinking thoughts like these, “Ooh, what if parental tyranny is preferable to actual adulting” and “Gee, if I don’t go shopping with my own money to stock my refrigerator, I’m going to starve to death!”.
As it came closer for the time for me to go to work, I felt the need to dispense as many pellets of wisdom from my parental Pez dispenser as I could in a short time.
- Don’t load the car so high that you can’t see out the windows or in the rearview mirror
- Make sure you check the tires before you go since your spare will be buried
- Since you can’t take it all in one trip, be sure to plan which things you need first
- Don’t distract yourself with your phone today
- Call me when you get there
Finally, it was time to say it. Goodbye. We both knew it wasn’t final. It was just that when she walked out that door, she was saying goodbye to her childhood. She had met the prescribed milestones recently with her college graduation and subsequent marriage. Moving was the next step and it was ONLY 165 miles. She saw my eyes glisten and asked if I was going to cry…as though she didn’t expect that I would. I was pretty proud of myself overall. I thought I held it together pretty well…until I got home from work. Almost all the chaos that was covering the floor of the common area was gone. Her room was bare except for a stripped bed and an empty dresser. On the dresser was the following note:
That was all the permission I needed. The tears that I had held back so valiantly that morning flowed freely and without warning. It was an emotional mixture of love and gratitude and relief and pride. Then it stopped as quickly as it started. After all, I have all the faith in the world that she’s going to be alright. Her choices to date are far better than mine were at 22, and miraculously, I turned out just fine! So the circle of life continues as she assumes the role of adult and I become an empty nester. I love you too Shanny!