The running joke is that it’s every parent’s dream come true when their child is finally grown and moving out of the house to start their own life, and maybe there is a bit of truth to that, but not in the way that you think.
Next week, My third oldest son will be moving out of the house to start his own life after graduating high school just a few weeks ago. While that may sound impressive and maybe even rare in this day and age, it’s the reality in my household.
A reality that I will admit that I’m struggling a bit with.
Now, while this is my third one to leave the house, it’s still going to be just as hard watching him go as it was his older brothers. After all, he’s still my kid whether he’s 18 or 80.
To add a little extra pepper to the punch, he’s not simply moving across town. Oh no. Just like his older brothers before him moved all the way out to Texas, this guy is planting his flag in Upstate New York.
I talk a lot about fatherhood across the various mediums that host my content and one of the key point that I reiterate regularly is that we should let our kids fail more while we have them. This is so that we can teach them how to get back up or recover from those failures for when we’re no longer around to do it for them.
As I watch my son prepare to go out into the word and make his mark on it, I can’t help being a bit apprehensive to the idea. Wondering if I’ve done a good enough job in raising him to be able to handle the world on his own.
I mean sure, I’m still not going to be more than a phone call or a bank transfer away from coming to his aid if the need were to arise, but still. I’m his father.
The other reservations are, I will admit, completely selfish. I’m gonna miss the kid. But I’ve been trying to re-frame the idea from, “My son is moving out”, to “I’m launching a Man out into the world to go an conquer.”
That is after all, the point of raising our children. We want to make them as competent and capable as possible so that they can navigate the world on their own using the guidance and lessons given to them by us.
I suppose that for an 18 year old kid to have the balls to choose to move so far away from his home is at least some modicum of evidence that his mother and I have helped instill that confidence in him.
That, and perhaps that he knows that we have his back should he ever need to come back home and try again has mitigated some of the risk that he is taking, making it all the more easy to do.
Either way, my wife was initially more apprehensive about him leaving than I (I mean, she’s his mom so…) and made those reservations very clear to me. But of course, even if we begged him to stay, the thought of an adventure is too much for any young man to refuse.
The last thing that I wanted to do was to try to guilt him into staying (okay…maybe second last thing….third….whatever) but I knew that it was important that he felt that we as his parents believed in and supported him. We definitely don’t want to hold him back from making a life for himself simply because it would inconvenience us by missing him.
I sat him down for a little man to man chat the other night where I told him that it wasn’t our job to talk him into or out of going. That as a Man he was going to have to start making decisions for himself and being ready to face whatever consequence or reward came as a result.
It’s our job as parents to be our kids’ biggest cheerleaders. To answer the phone so that we can hear the good news of their successes so that we can celebrate together. It’s our job as parents to make sure that our children know that no matter how far away they are, we will always have their backs. That should their adventures be cut short, they never have to be embarrassed to call and ask for help or to come home.
A testament of having raised a child into adulthood well is when our children can truly trust us enough to tell us of their failures without the fear of “I told you so” or shaming because they “should have listened”.
So that’s where I am now. And maybe that’s where a lot of you are right now facing this very same thing happening within your own family. I know it’s terrifying after spending the last 18 years of their lives doing everything within our power to keep them safe to see them suddenly leap from the nest and try to fly.
But it’s something that we have to go through and something that they have to do.
If you’ve got children, this day will eventually come for you. When it does, try not to make the decisions for them.
“They don’t learn make choices by doing what others tell them to do. They learn to make choices by making choices.” (paraphrased quote from my pal, Anthony Migliorino of http://thepolitesavage.blog )
I know it’s scary, but remember, this is what you’ve trained them for. Did you do a good enough job? Not sure?
Well then, go make sure.