I hate clichés. I love clichés. I just find it weird when I feel as if my whole life is one big cliché! Being a parent means you will undoubtedly experience any number of them. Here’s an arbitrary list of parenting clichés. Be honest, how many have you used?
~~ Like father, like son
~~ The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
~~ There are starving children in Africa
~~ Money doesn’t grow on trees
~~ I’ll start treating you like an adult when you start acting like one
~~ When you have children of your own, you’ll understand
~~ If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times
~~ Because I said so!
~~ Wait until your father (or mother) gets home
~~ When I was your age
~~ If God had wanted you to have holes in your ears (eyebrows, tongue, etc.) He would have put them there!
~~ Life isn’t fair (this one is universal to parents and kids)
~~ When I was your age, I had to walk ten miles through the snow, uphill, by myself, to go to school
~~ You’ll understand when you’re older
~~ Go ask your father (or mother)
~~ I’m going to give you until the count of three
~~ Running away? I’ll help you pack
There must also be a cliché about how time goes by so quickly once you’re a parent? Just the lyrics from “Sunrise Sunset” bring those thoughts to mind:
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday?
When they were small?
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
I fondly remember my parents listening to his song and tearing up, while I thought they were being ridiculously maudlin. Now, of course, I tear up any time I hear it. And, I feel that now that I’m really living my next big parenting transition: my son is leaving home. I’m writing this while on a trip with my older son for his audition at the Berklee College of Music, in Boston.
He evidently did well at the audition, but whether he is accepted is really not the point of this column. I’ve truly felt extreme emotions on this trip together, just the two of us. Most of those emotions have been vicarious! His excitement during the college tour, his engagement with the various students he met, and his almost innocent wonder at all he saw, were just small reminders that he has one foot out of the door of his childhood life and home.
There’s no doubt I carry a healthy dose of sentimentality around with me and that no mother can possibly claim more emotion or fear of the empty nest than me. I know if I’ve done my job well, the boys should and will leave home and stay away from home soon after their high school graduations. Yes, of course, they’ll come back, but hopefully only for visits.
The national statistics for college grads returning to live at home stand at an astonishing 80+% mostly due to the poor economy and high unemployment rate among that young, inexperienced demographic. That is quite a sobering number.
But, the feelings that came up for me on this trip, in which we shared a hotel room, every meal, and did the whole college tour together, were much deeper than I’d anticipated. I marveled at how my son looked and acted like a young adult, a young man. Gone were those awkward days when simply asking directions of a stranger would be impossible for him to do. In its place was a confident man on the cusp of a great journey, God willing.
My son is a music fanatic. He lives, breathes, and sleeps (literally) music. Berklee was like a Disneyland of music opportunity, toys, people, talent, and challenges. He ate up every word and sound, was wide-eyed upon seeing the myriad of practice rooms, the incredible library, the rehearsal halls, and the absolutely top-of-the-craft mixing and recording studios.
He also lit up at the sight of all the girls! College girls, each with such unique looks and styles that I felt like Grandpa. I envied him all of those hopes and expectations and the wonder he is likely to continue to feel.
Thankfully, I have few regrets in my life, so my feelings were not marred by any envy or wishes to go back. I had my fun during those years of my life. I traveled, attended several colleges, played college sports, went to Europe between my undergrad and graduate programs, and otherwise had a blast. I even met a girl or two along the way.
Now it’s my son’s turn. Now, I get to finance what we can afford of his college years and hope to hear from him now and then. I’m proud of him. And, we’re both counting down until January 31, the date the early action applicants find out if they’re accepted.
Yep, he’s grown up…this was over a year ago, too!