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A Parent's Quandary

  

     It was a routine and predictable enough event in the life of a parent, one that should not have been too taxing to one’s equilibrium or balance of emotions, and yet there it was: for the past week, I had been nothing if not disconsolate, distraught with anticipation of the day, dreading its arrival, wracked by sorrow and foreboding, fending off devastating mood swings, shaken by melancholy and mourning, adrift, lost in timeless reveries, with not infrequent episodes of lamentation and weeping…
    She was, after all, my first born, and as the first child she was privileged.  She received all the slavish affections of a delirious father, who was instantly smitten by the fragile, squirming, little creature.  At her birth, and thereafter, a whole new range of emotions and sensations now consumed me: drooling euphoria; unhinged rapture; besotted reverence; incoherent adulation.  Pristine heights of hysterical ecstasy, the likes of which Tim Leary, the poets, Sufis, and mystics, could only dream of, were now arrayed within me like glorious, sparkling ornaments; truly, I was reborn, in the glow of my incandescent, newly-born daughter…
    I devoted long stretches to expounding on the joys of fatherhood and chronicling her infancy: making up songs, composing tributes, recording by film, video, and pen her every moment, milestone, and adorable utterance: her first words, her first teeth, her first steps: not one jot in the long itinerary of stumbles undertaken in the early years was left to dusty memory; rather it was painstakingly and dutifully immortalized in some fashion, so beguiled and incapacitated was I by her every exploit and achievement at the dawning of her young life...   
     I rushed each morning to her cradle, always insistent I see her first, so I could witness in its purest state the inevitable warmth of her smile and expression, a wondrous balm before the work-a-day world began.  And yes, there were the feedings and diaper changes and other more tedious repetitions, all now mysteriously imbued with a sense of elevated purpose and sanctity, perceived as necessary but nonetheless holy tasks; indeed, I was aghast and rueful that I had loutishly failed to grasp previously the singular beauty and sublimity attached to the proper care and treatment of intestinal gas or diaper rash, and bore shame for my knavish shortcomings...
    She became my traveling buddy and constant companion, indeed, accompanied me everywhere: by papoose, back-back, carriage, bike, car, even motorcycle; truly, we were inseparable; and verily there was no-place I went, no matter how far flung, without the presence of my burping, gurgling child; we journeyed to El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Peru; Turkey; and Greece.  Later, we visited the Great Wall of China, Kyoto, and Victoria Falls, and scaled Mount Kilimanjaro…
    I had tracked and promoted her career through childhood and adolescence.  We slogged through the hooked-on-phonics and Suzuki music lessons.  I helped her with the spelling Bs, dioramas, book reports, and science projects. She joined the Marching Band, and I followed her to the recitals and competitions throughout the state, cheering and applauding her every effort...  
    It was around the time of her eighteenth birthday, upon becoming a senior at the High School, that I began to experience the portentous disquiet of which I spoke earlier.  I realized that each event through the school year would not be revisited, that she would not return to lead the band or perform at football games or with the orchestra or symphony; and so each such closing activity was endowed with poignancy, finality, and new found urgency.  
    Moreover, I could glimpse the schism that was fast approaching in the boisterous and happy family unit I had carefully assembled and tended through the years with house, kids, and pet canary; the altering of essential relationships that had formed between parents and children and between the children themselves.  I understood it as the opening salvo in the gradual unraveling of my little parcel of domesticity, which, for nearly two decades, had been a constant and stable marker... Now, I was witnessing the process in reverse, the fracturing of that which I had methodically built, as my first fledgling prepared to decamp - to be followed, in good time, by the others...
    In the days leading up to her departure for college, I feverishly sought consolation from those who had already gone through it.  I spoke of my growing gloom with each passing day.  I was told to be happy for her, that it was her turn, and that I could take pleasure in having raised a good kid.  Yet such sentiments failed to dispel my woe.
    I took the day off to drive her to the college dorm.  Before leaving, I told her how proud she had made me.  I recited a prayer and blessed her.  When we arrived, I helped her to unload her luggage and bade her farewell.
    A parent must ultimately do this; that is, to say, let go.  Parenting is, after all, preparing our children for their own lives.  They do not belong to us.  We merely have the burden - and pleasure - of raising them.

    

Comments

  • JenniferDavis

    October 7, 2011

    Beautifully said! I also feel the pain of sending our daughter off to college this year. Bitter Sweet!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Rebecca Strange

    October 7, 2011

    how very true! I recall the same emotions when taking my only son to college. Three years later I begin to understand. What a lovely article. Thank you

  • Harvey Chaimowitz

    October 8, 2011

    The great care and attention you devoted to your child is reflected in her achievements. I often wonder how different my life would have been with parents such as you. And you, too, if you had had such parents, I have no doubt that we would be talking about the man most likely to win the Republican nomination and, perhaps, the presidency, Richard Moss. Compared to the present field, you excell in every way.

  • Jessica Dubon

    October 11, 2011

    WOW!!!! Well said! I hope I can learn from your teachings to pass onto my children!!

  • rita bieker

    April 17, 2012

    This bittersweet time for you is not just one time. Three more to follow and they will be as joyous and painful as the first. Your precious babes are so alike in excelling, yet so different in personality. You and your beautiful wife (Ying), have put a smile on God's face with the love you have for your children.

  • Deanna Erny

    August 16, 2012

    Enjoyed the article! Sometimes I get stressed trying to get the kids to all their events, but reading this reminds me I can't forget to enjoy these God-given moments, because they won't last long. However, when I'm at that point, it will be exciting to see, as with your daughter, where life will take them next. Thanks for sharing!

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