Sometimes, late at night, I like to try and remember what my life was like before I became a father.
I was thirty when my eldest was born, so I know that I spent three decades doing……something, though I really can’t recall what.
Sleeping. I remember that I used to sleep. The sun would come up and I’d still be in bed.
Still, my wife and I were married two years before we had kids. I must have done something while I was awake.
The idea there was a time before I became a father seems almost incredible to me. How did I pass the time? Where did I go? Who did I nag? None of those questions are hypothetical, at least not for me.
After having spent much of the last two decades as a stay at home parent, my kids are, well, leaving home.
In four weeks, my daughter, like my son before her, will be heading off to college.
In 28 days, I’ll be down to just one kid in the house, my 17 year old son, who has, I’m sorry to say, made it clear he doesn’t want me turning all my parenting energy on him.
In 672 hours, I’m getting term limited out of my job and I can’t imagine what I’ll be doing next.
That I have been through this process before makes it no less difficult, but, of course, it’s impossible to vaccinate yourself from pain; having been burned touching a hot stove before does nothing to stop the ache the next time your fingers graze the flames.
When Clay left for college I spent six weeks sighing every time I passed his room….or his place at the breakfast table. Honestly, for a time, sighing became a nearly full time job.
And so it will be again. Only now, because I know what’s coming, I’ve taken to mourning my daughter’s absence while she’s still here.
When we sit watching TV I get sad thinking about how sad I’ll be later thinking about how happy I was now.
That all of this is happening during the Summer is no small irony. As a stay at home father, Summers were a battle ground.
I prepared for my children’s vacations like I was readying for a siege.
I did everything I could to fill their days with activities so that we wouldn’t all be stuck in the house making each other crazy.
I found camps and activities and took them to any movie that didn’t feature graphic nudity on the poster.
After one truly inappropriate ‘comedy’, I seriously considered asking them to leave before me so I wouldn’t have to endure the shaming stares of other adults.
If you’d told me that the thought of my kids becoming smart, caring, funny adults with lives, not to mention homes, of their own, would one day leave me in a funk, I wouldn’t have believed you.
It’s all their fault, of course. Children can be annoying, dazzling, funny, dull, the source of your greatest joys and worst fears.
And they can be all of those things in the space of a minute, and then, a minute later, they start up all over again. Most of all, children are all consuming, like adorable, locusts.
One day you’re a person, then suddenly you have a tiny baby who devours your every ounce of energy, intellect and emotion for just shy of two decades.
And then, when you can no longer imagine your life without them…they leave.
Now, unlike Summers past, they drift in and out of the house. When they were little, we went everywhere together. Then, I drove them everywhere.
Now, I just lend them my car. That’s something else I didn’t know about being a father. Your kids leave a few years before they go.
Maybe that’s why, I don’t worry too much about what I’ll do when all three kids go. As my kids have needed less of me, I’ve begun to adjust.
Recently, I remembered how to read and eat dinner with friends. There’s hope for me yet.
And though I am sad when I think about my kids moving on, there is one thing I remember about my old pre-kids life that helps me.
Also read:The Creative Power of Self-Love