My wife and I have a blended family — her three daughters, my two sons that became our five children. Whenever I consider bitchin’ about my day, I simply and fondly recall raising five teens and my complaints magically disappear. We have, for the most part, successfully launched all the little birds. Some flew swiftly from the nest…some had to be pushed…gently. The last reminders of life “before” are some of the things they left behind. Stuff we’ve saved because although it is junk to them now, we still see it as treasure…and some day they probably will too. And there is still the cell phone bill I pay each month—$400—so not “all clear” yet, but close.
We did our best to guide them to adulthood. Gave the best advice we could, tried to set a good example, trusted them first and grounded them second, probably spoiled them a bit, loved them even when we didn’t like them, taught them to be kind to others and themselves, showed them that life is better with a sense of humor, and demanded that they follow their passions.
I couldn’t tell them everything I wanted to tell them. Sometimes because it was best to shut up and let them experience life, sometimes because life goes so fast and they were busy, sometimes because there just aren’t words to describe a parent’s love, joy, and pride. To the last, I did what I do—I immortalized those things in my Creepers Saga. A message to remind them that they are strong, that they are loved and that sometimes parents have the honor of raising their own heroes…I did. I was honest about the work. I told them, “you may not always recognize your character but that because you can’t always see the amazing soul that I see.” That is the first honor of parenthood.
But they are adults now and my place is to offer advice only when asked. They still ask at times and I still do my best to offer the most objective advice I can. I have never wanted to drive them to my conclusion…I want them to find their own. Still I worry some nights. Did they get the most important stuff? Do they understand both the kindness and cruelty of the world? Do they know how to love? Do they know how to love themselves? Can they see past all the plaques, promotions and accolades and pursue their passions? Do they realize that I am proud of the things they’ve already done? Do they know I am even more proud of the people they’ve become?
I don’t worry about their careers anymore or their education. Those things are either done or almost done. We have a son finishing law school, a daughter who has followed my career path, a daughter making her own mark in management, a son in college who plans to join the Marines after graduation, and a daughter joining the Army. The last two worry me….but I worry in silence.
In my mostly quiet house, the one that has too many bedrooms now, I think about my own grades. I contemplate the wisdom of my parenthood. Was I a good enough father? Did I do the right things? Was I too hard on them? Too easy?
I can’t answer those questions. I believe even at my worst, I was still doing the best I could. I can hope they know that, but in truth it will be years before the answer is revealed. I’ll see it in the way they raise their own children. I’ll see it in how they prioritize their family. I’ll know I did okay when their own kids are stressing them, when their job won’t let up, when they are trying to maintain some kind of connection to their spouse in the midst of all the chaos and they can still laugh. I’ll know I did okay when their worlds are spinning faster than they think they can keep up with…but that they are keeping up with. I’ll know when there, underneath their tired expressions is the one that I too wore…happiness.
Categories: Life is Funny