I listened to my friend Mao talk about his son who serves in the military, and their last conversation before he set off for his first tour. He and his wife and family had traveled to San Diego to bid the young man farewell. During that conversation my friend had asked his son where the ship was headed and how long the journey would be. In response the son informed his father that he could not provide him that information because the mission was “classified” and the destination was “unknown”.
They said their tearful goodbyes, they embraced and he boarded the Navy vessel. As the ship set sail for its unknown destination, my friend stood there on the pier with what remained of his family, wondering what trials and experiences his son would face or how much time would pass before they heard from him or would see his face again.
I wonder sometimes if that is the feeling that all parents experience when they are sending a child off for the first time. Your daughter may be headed off for college, your son may be deployed while in the military or he or she may be getting married and leaving the roost to join their spouse in a different State or country.
As a parent you may have that feeling that your child’s mission in life is “classified” and that their destination is “unknown” and when you get that feeling there is not much you can do because you know that they have to make their own choices, live their own life and experience their own hardships and pain. That’s difficult but its part of crossing the threshold from childhood into adulthood. It is a part of life. It is understanding that at some point we as parents have to let go. And even though we fear for their welfare; we fear that we may be losing them to the world; we can’t stand the thought that the little child we coddled and cuddled from infancy to young adulthood may leave us and never look back, we must. It is an essential part of our existence – to declare our independence and to live our lives the best way we see fit.
Super Mom and I have a few more years before our eldest son ventures out into the world and subsequently each one of our sons will follow suit. Though we are already loathing that dreadful day because we love each of our sons so much and they are an integral part of us we know he will be prepared for his mission and destination whatever that may be. And ultimately, isn’t it a test for us as parents too? Isn’t each child’s life a walking advertisement of what took place in your home? Whatever lessons were taught and retained within the walls of your home and while your child was under your tutelage will be the guidebook that they carry in the annals of their memory for a lifetime. Love them while you can, embrace them while you can because pretty soon they’ll be in your shoes and either repeating what you taught or perfecting the same lessons for their own children.
3 things to do now before they leave:
Go on vacations – I recall my childhood vacations with my family to California and short trips to the beach when we moved to Samoa. They are cherished memories of a time when dad was not worrying about work and mom had that memorable smile on her face. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant trip abroad to be unforgettable. The most important thing is being away from the chaos of everyday life and spending quality time with your kids.
Find a moment – When I was a kid my dad took me and my brothers golfing. Now, every time I go golfing I recall the times I spent with my dad on the golf course. That was our moment. That was his way of showing us that he loved us. He expressed his deepest thoughts and taught his greatest lessons while we were on the course. It might be fishing, scrapbooking, sailing or something else that you and your child are interested in together. But find something and make that the activity and the moment that your child recollects whenever they need your inspiration.
Say it – My mother did everything in her power to let me and my siblings know her love for us. She hugged us whenever she could; she showered us with kisses; she made us our favorite dinner or sat by my bedside when I had a fever until she knew I was in the clear. But it’s the times when she expressed in words how much she loved me that I knew without a doubt that my mom and I had a bond that could never be broken. Your kids want to hear you say it – so say it!