Text message from daughter: Hi Dad, I plan to spend Christmas in New Orleans with Chris and his family.
Dad’s reply: Ok, did you let mom know?
Daughter: Not yet but will do now. Remember that Chris and I celebrated Easter, July 4th and Thanksgiving with you guys. Love you!
It’s true, my “little” daughter and her boyfriend had in fact spent the past few holidays with us; still, I was taken aback, just a bit, by the news that she wouldn’t be spending Christmas with her family. This would be the first time that we’d be “separated”.
What was this new emotion I was experiencing: separation angst? Was I jealous, angry, disappointed, hurt? That’s crazy! Grow up Burt, this is just part of life. The status quo is changing and there is nothing I can do about it. Yes, there was something I could and should do: embrace the change. And here are 7 reasons why:
- It’s what I also wanted to do: At an age even earlier than my daughter, I wanted to start my own life. The separation from my home was even more dramatic as I put an ocean between my parents and myself. When I set off, I thought I’d spend a year in Europe and then return home. As it turned out it took me 20 years to make it back “home”, to the United States. Joining me was my German wife and our 6-month old daughter (yes, the one who just sent me the text message). Unfortunately, my parents died in an accident 4 years earlier and never got a chance to meet my wife and their new grandchild.
- Opening and closing chapters: Life is all about change, change that we have created ourselves or change that has been cast on us. Some people deal better with change than others. Some people even seek it out. I’m more of the kind that enjoys staying in my comfort zone and sometimes struggle with change that has been flung my way. But I’ve come to learn that with change comes learning and growth. Because my daughter is now in a serious relationship, our holiday and vacation schedule will be impacted. I can no longer tell my eldest child that she will be going on vacation with us or celebrating a holiday in a certain way. This is normal even though it will take some getting used to.
- Making mistakes, experiencing success: Just like we learn from change, we also learn from the mistakes we’ve made. When a child makes a mistake parents often need to right the wrong that the child has committed. Some parents continue to bail their adult child out when they’ve screwed up but this is sending the wrong message to the child. They need to think and act in a manner that limits their mistakes but when they do occur, make things right and learn from the mistake. Our children also grow when they succeed at something. The pride they take in their own accomplishments is compounded if they receive praise from their parent(s). This is even more the case if the success comes after lots of hard work or a prior failure.
- Financial independence: I remember how proud I was when I got my first paycheck. I was also in shock when I saw how much money was deducted for taxes. Earning my own money brought with it the independence to do and buy the things that I wanted. It also taught me how to budget my money so that I could pay all of my monthly expenses and put some away as savings. Some young adults will be able to manage their money well starting with that first check. Others will struggle, especially if they give in to the temptation of charging unneeded purchases to their credit card.It will be interesting to see how my daughter manages here own money. Will she achieve financial independence starting with that first paycheck or will she come back to dad asking for financial support because X, Y, Z, just happened? Will she be generous and give to causes she believes are important or will she spend everything she earns on her own well-being? My parents raised me on the simple principal of living below your means. I’ve tried to role model this for my daughter and her brothers. It will be interesting to watch if she picked up on this.
- Getting off of my payroll: I’ve invested a good chunk of change in my daughter’s education over the years and am happy that she is leaving college without debt. This is a huge blessing that I don’t take lightly and I know she doesn’t either. But because I’ve put her and her twin brothers through private schools and then college, my wife and I have had to live on a tighter budget than we otherwise would have had to.
This was my choice and I’m good with it.Having said that I realize that in just over 4 years I may potential have all three kids off of my payroll and have some extra money to enjoy. This is a pretty cool thought and one that I look forward to.
- Raising a family: In Genesis 2:24 we read: “ That’s why a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person.” (CEV) Our kids close the chapter of living with their parents and open a new chapter: finding a mate and living with them in a marriage relationship.The values and norms of two families are now blended together to form a new unit. Most couples want to have children and try their hand at raising them. The progression is interesting and goes something like this: 1) I focus on me, 2) We focus on us and finally 3) We, the parents, focus on our kid(s).Having your own kids does wonders for taming your ego: You now have mouths to feed, soccer games on Saturday mornings and 529 college savings accounts to invest in. Life’s focus has changed. It’s not all about you anymore.
- Making me a grandfather: Everyone who has been elevated to the status of a grandparent, tells me that it is a wonderful experience and situation. It really must be because so many of my friends who have become grandparents extoll so much joy and pride. They want to show you the newest photos of the grandchildren. Their vacation and holiday planning revolves around spending time with their grandchildren. Some have shared with me that they like being a grandparent because they enjoy the time with their grandkids but equally appreciate the fact that they are not responsible for them and can hand them off to their parents and disappear. There is also a special bond that children have with their grandparents. In today’s society – with such a high divorce rate – many kids are, in fact, raised by their grandparents. Where does this special bond come from? I believe it has to do with the life experiences that grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren. Grandparents also take more time, ask better questions and listen more than their busy parents. It’s like grandparents have nothing more to prove or accomplish and can now just relax and be there for their grandchildren.I don’t know if you can relate to the reasons that I’ve outlined here, why I think it is important to embrace the change that is coming with letting go of your child(ren).
Yes, there may be some negatives of letting go but I believe the positives greatly outweigh any negatives. Not only is your child learning and growing due to this change, but the same goes for you and me. We can hold onto the great memories of the past and discover new opportunities in the future.