Tag Archives: Parenthood

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You know, as a parent, you can be wracked with self-doubt and anxiety about what kind of job you’ve done raising your kids.

Did you instill in them the right values? How do they treat others? Do they respect themselves?

Will they only remember the stupid things you did wrong when they were younger?

Did you give them enough support? Did you not give them enough?

My “boys” have just turned 23 and 18.

The older one is on his own after graduating from college last year. He’s a manager-in-training in the hospitality industry, working for a major hotel chain and making more money than his old man did right out of college.

He’s living independently, owns a car, buys his own groceries, is well-regarded by his co-workers and really enjoys his work.

The younger son just graduated from high school, has been a stellar student and an even more stellar friend to his wide circle of friends, has held a number of offices in school groups and activities and will be working four summer jobs.

So, yeah, I think the kids are all right.

And if I needed any more affirmation about whether they learned the right things, I turn for some comfort to this essay my younger son wrote last year:

Ten years ago, my family moved from the streets of New York to the wilderness of the Poconos.

With it, came many challenges such as dealing with the extreme winters. My father, being conscious of this, made a rule that my brother and I had to abide by: wear your boots to school.

After the first month of winter, wearing my boots to school every day became tiresome and uncomfortable.

Becoming irritated by the bulky footwear, I decided to do something about it.

One night, I put my Nike sneakers in a plastic bag and placed them in the backseat of my dad’s car.

The next morning, I put on my boots, as instructed, and got into my dad’s car to head to the bus stop.

In the three-minute ride from my house to the bus stop, I quietly changed from my boots to my sneakers. I then proceeded to board the bus with pride in the chicanery I just pulled off.

Later that morning, my dad found the infamous boots sitting on the floor in the backseat of his car.

Safe to say he was displeased. In the grand scheme of things, it was just one day I didn’t wear my boots.

However, in that same day I did learn that Nike sneakers do not have favorable insulation. In fact, I did not wear my sneakers again until the following March.

The clunkiness of the boots was worth the warmth they gave me. I was fortunate to learn from this situation at a young age that I am not always right.

It was at that moment I realized that there are people who know me better than I know myself — and those people are my parents.   

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On Being a Dad and Facing an Empty Nest

On Being a Dad and Facing an Empty Nest

There is a memorable story told about my late fiancée and her son that goes like this:

Garth was in his 20s and headed out for a night on the town.

He was primping himself in front of a mirror.

His mother, (my late fiancée), Carla said something to him and he cracked wise or sarcastic.

She came up behind him and smacked him in the back of the head — even though he had about five inches on her.

Garth wheeled around and angrily asked: “Whatdidja do that for?!”

Her reply?

“You will never be too old or too big that I’m not your mother!”

It remains a memorable story because it speaks to Carla’s spirit (let’s just say she did not take guff from anyone) but it also embodies an important lesson I am learning as a dad who will soon face an empty nest.

Our younger son is a high school senior and will be in college by the late summer.

He has his own car, a wide circle of friends and is active in numerous extracurricular activities.

Translation: My wife and I don’t see too much of him. When we do, we try to make the most of the time together.

Our older son graduated from college in the spring, landed a job 10 days before graduation and has been on his own and out of state since last July.

The days of us having to hand-hold or ferry “the boys” around to different school events or social engagements are over.

And in many ways, at least right now, I miss that.

As a dad, being there for them and being the one who looked out for them day-to-day was my raison d’être.

The core missions of looking out for the lads’ well-being, care, feeding and upbringing defined my role as a parent for two decades.

Now, suddenly — poof!

It feels as if I am wearing a pair of those “beer goggles” they give kids in driver’s education to mimic the feel of drunken driving: My view of reality has been twisted and distorted.

So it came as something of a relief (and a sense of still being needed) when No. 1 son recently called and emailed about a low-level emergency after being locked out of his first apartment.

Much to his credit, he was collected and clear-headed and was merely looking for some advice about navigating the situation with his landlord. (It turned out that the lock was installed incorrectly and malfunctioned.)

I recall once when I was standing on line at a supermarket with the boys when they were about 12 and 7.

A veteran parent ahead of me struck up a conversation.

I recall well what she said: “The older kids get, the more complicated and more expensive the problems become.”

Yes, that is certainly true.

But what I’m also learning is that they’ll never get too old or too big that I’ll ever stop being their dad.

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