Saturday, August 22, 2009

You Raise Them To Be Independent

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsAlthough Woodland Park doesn’t open its doors for the new school year until the week of September 14, much of the rest of the country has already undertaken the annual rite of sending their precious babies off into the unknown of their first day of school and the internet is awash in parental expressions of sadness and joy.

I’ve been hearing my mother’s voice:

You raise them to be independent, then you’re heartbroken when they are.

That pretty much sums up the experience of parenting. From the moment they’re born we know our job is to raise them up to set them free. I do a pretty good job of locking that reality into a corner of my brain on most days, but the bittersweetness washes over me at every milestone: first word, first step, first sitter, first sleepover, first day of school, first overnight camp, first philosophical response to a great disappointment, first crush, first period, first job . . .

This summer has been one full of little milestones for me.

It brought a lump to my throat when the monorail ticket seller doubted my 12-year-old still qualified for the youth fare.

I had to pull over to the side of the road to collect myself after dropping her off at her first babysitting gig.

I felt a strange combination of protective outrage and parental pride when I caught young men ogling her and her friends as they walked ahead of me on the sidewalks of downtown Seattle.

And I don’t know how to describe the experience of standing at poolside last week as all these little girls I’d known since kindergarten unselfconsciously striped down to their swimsuits to reveal bodies well on their way to becoming those of young women. I turned to a mother who was dropping off her son and said, “These are the luckiest boys in the world.” I chuckled casually, but if she was listening carefully I’m sure she would have heard echoes of the abyss in my voice.

Like all the parents who’ve ever loved their children, I know I’ll regain the solid ground of remembering that this is just part of the job. The emotions are real and complex, and they’ll never go away. They’ll just wait there in the corner I’ve pushed them into, ready to emerge at the next milestone to stop up my throat and push tears into my eyes.

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BellaDaddy said...

shoot, mine is only three...and I cry at her milestonmes...daily!


Otter Thomas said...

I don't want to think about setting them free. Thankfully my son is only 9 months old and I have a long time to get ready for taht.

Mocha Dad said...

I love that quote. It has inspired me to write a post.

Anonymous said...

Presently mine is quite dependent, although he believes he is rather independent. It's all about perspective I guess.

The Devoted Dad said...

I already look at each passing milestone and think about how much I want for her to learn and grow and be independent while also being my little girl. Can I have my cake and eat it too? -Jason

WeaselMomma said...

I have just started teaching my oldest child to drive. What a mixed bag.