A parent’s gift (Best of)
The “American Dream” is no longer owning a home… it’s getting your kids to move out of that home. Or so say parents while their offspring are growing up. But when the day actually arrives for a member of the brood to leave the nest, Mom can think of all kinds of excuses why the poor child should remain in adult day-care forever. When kids go off to college or to make a date with the world, parents worry they may not return. Even if they do come back to visit every parent knows the child will be forever changed by that first flight. When sons and daughters come home for the holidays they’ll no longer sit at the “kid’s table” and this is not cause for celebration.
Parents who let their young children hunt with big guns and ride pitching ponies all of a sudden are concerned about the dangers of math class. They pray that their kids can survive dorm life even though they’ve bunked with baby brothers, sisters and dogs forever. Heaven forbid their child should see an x-rated movie or wipe their nose on their sleeve in public. When a ranch kid goes off to college, Mom and Dad invariably become distressed about their driving, although they never worried when a child, whose feet didn’t reach the peddles, drove the feed truck.
Parents worry that when their child is turned loose on the world without adult supervision they’ll go vegetarian, grow their hair in purple spikes, get a tattoo, switch to liberal arts and become an ear-ringed poet. This despite never having displayed a knack for rhyming words. There is grave concern “your baby” will soon make you a grandparent because they don’t know how babies are made. Although they have been around lambing ewes, lusty bulls and MTV since they wore long pants. Even though Grandma was married at 17 and you at 21 your kids should wait until middle-age to marry. Child bearing should be put off until grandma and grandpa want grandkids.
Sister and brother can field dress a deer but Mom worries they may go hungry at college. The poor child was raised on fast food and Twinkies but Dad hopes they’ll “eat right” when they leave home. Parents who force fed their kids a three course meal consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and corn chips all through elementary school now send junior off to college with a set of pots and pans and a Betty Crocker Cookbook.
Here’s a child who hasn’t made a bed or hung up clothes since first grade and all of a sudden mother and father are concerned about his flossing habits. Or credit card balances. “Money isn’t everything,” you taught your kids wisely, only to realize that for the next four years it very well could be.
You can’t fool me. Parents are sad this time of year because the nest will soon be empty and the humor, companionship and free labor will be gone. Father may actually have to mow the lawn and mom will inherit even more chores than usual. And their job as parents is about to be graded by a tough task master… the real world.
Relax Mom and Dad. The world is ready for your child. A kid raised amongst rattlesnakes, lightning strikes and charging bulls ought to be able to handle coed dorms. You’ve done your job. Hopefully you’ve given your child a good pedigree and reason to live up to it. Just don’t expect letters, hugs or thank yous.
Look at the bright side parents. For the first time in recent memory when the phone rings it may actually be for you. And the grocery bill and laundry pile will go down. (Except twice a year when the wayward child comes home bearing big bulging whiffy bags).
Tomorrow has turned into today and the time has come to let go. Be gentle kind world. You have reluctantly been given a parent’s greatest gift.
email lee pitts at firstname.lastname@example.org