Well over a decade ago, I planted an oak sapling in the yard. This sapling was very young, fragile and needed much love and care to ensure it survived. Over the years, I constantly watched over the oak sapling to ensure it was properly watered and cared for. If the oak sapling showed signs of distress or illness, I would care for it and nurture it back to health. Basically, the oak sapling needed me to survive and I loved that feeling of need.
As the years went by and as the tender sapling became a young tree, my care and attention shifted and changed as it grew. No longer did I have to worry as much about its health or care. For the most part, the young oak tree became self-sufficient, didn’t require the constant attention or care that it once demanded. I still had to keep my eye on the young tree and ensure everything was ok. Sometimes, I would notice the young tree was having issues and required my intervention to prevent the issues from becoming serious. However, the issues and need for attention were becoming less and less required as the young tree became stronger with each passing year.
Eventually, the young tree became a strong and sturdy oak tree. No, it wasn’t that grand and aged gem of a tree, but it had grown and established its roots to a point where the need for my attention and care became almost non-existent. Yes, there were instances where I felt I needed to intervene to trim an out of control limb or to ensure that I was still molding the tree in to the vision I had for when it was mature. However, most of the time I wasn’t needed and quite honestly, I would just fly by it on my lawnmower without ever appreciating the gem of a tree it had become.
This weekend, my wife and I will drop off our son at college in another state. Times are changing, we are no longer parents of adolescent children and quite honestly it’s awkward. It has been an amazingly challenging but rewarding journey to this point. The fact is, I love my kids more than life itself, but they probably don’t realize this. Everything I’ve done, from the day I learned my wife was pregnant, has been strategically thought out with my kids and family at the forefront of my thoughts and intentions. All I’ve ever wanted to ensure was that they had a better childhood than me with a world of opportunities in front of them that I never got to see.
As one can imagine, you become sentimental when you’re about ready to send your youngest off to college. It’s funny when I sat back and thought about how I got to this point so fast, I began to see the parallels between my son and that prized oak tree. Fact of the matter is that he hasn’t really needed me much lately. I’ve quietly sat on the side and watched him become a young man who is becoming more self-sufficient with each passing day. Yes, occasionally he has needed me for advice or for emergencies, but he just doesn’t demand my time and attention like when he was young.
In our society, Dads are typically the physically strong and mentally tough pieces of the family puzzle. The Dad is ok with kids leaving because that means “more time to hunt, fish, work on cars, etc.” with his other “manly” buddies. In truth, many of us are complicated and very sensitive individuals who have been taught to keep it all inside and figure it out ourselves. When you hear a child is going to college, everyone immediately turns their attention to the Mom and the impact a child leaving will have on her. The fact of the matter is that it’s impactful to both parents regardless of what people wish to acknowledge.
When you spend the last 18+ years doing for others because that’s what gave you purpose and makes you happy, the world becomes devoid of purpose, very large and with many empty spaces that you are left wondering how to fill. In time, I’m sure those voids will be filled with other meaningful and purpose driven life, but for now it’s awkward place and somewhat sad.
As I see you all grown up, I’m proud and happy that I was able to care and nurture in to what you are today. In the same breath, I’m sad that you no longer need me as much and my time as your protector and care giver are drawing down.
“Oak Tree” - I will continue to watch you and I look forward to seeing you continuing to grow, but damn I’m going to miss you…