Three of the greatest moments in my life have been the arrivals of each of my children. All three of them were gifts from God, entrusted to me and my wife to raise with patience, unconditional love, forgiveness, grace, and spiritual guidance. As we shepherd these gifts through life, we keep looking forward knowing that one day it will also be our responsibility to let go and allow our children to be who they were born to be. I always looked upon that day as being a parent’s “graduation day.” And like many other milestones in our lives, a day of pride and celebration.
Susan and I had our first “graduation day” recently as we assisted our eldest son move to Boston. And yes, there were feelings of celebration and excitement for his new adventure and the fact that he is now beginning his journey into adulthood, there was also more melancholy than I ever imagined. As we drove away from his new apartment, I found my mind filled with snapshots of the last 24 years – from holding my newborn son in my arms 24 years ago to watching him graduate and receive his Masters degree a few weeks ago. I saw images of being his soccer coach, attending Cub Scout events, Boy Scout camping trips, first days of school, hiking out west, high school performances and everything in between.
I am not sure that I was ready for graduation day – even though I know he is. When I first held Michael in my arms, I recall never before feeling so amazingly overwhelmed with responsibility. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Holding him for the first time and staring into his little eyes, I realized that I would do anything for this new life. And I knew on that day, that at some point in the future, he would grow up to be an amazing young man and begin his own journey in the real world. I know in my mind that he was and is a gift from God and that my role was to simply care for him – temporarily – until he was ready to leave.
Well that day arrived, and it was much harder than I ever expected. I have dropped him off at camp, college, and grad school before. But this was different. I always knew he would be back at some point. But this time was for real. This was our graduation day. Something we have worked hard for over the last 24 years, something we knew was coming, and yet, something I was totally unprepared for.
As we left Boston, I know that Michael begins his new life in a new place, and we begin a new relationship, one steeped in this “post – graduation day” environment. I have come to know that there may be nothing more complicated in life than relationships between parents and children, and I pray that in this new environment, God helps me know, understand and navigate this next stage of my life as a parent.