I just finished a very interesting weekend. I drove two hours south of Orlando to meet with my 18-year old son and his mom to discuss college. College!
It wasn’t that long ago that I mastered how to change his diaper on a dresser top by holding him in place with my foot as I grabbed a Pampers with my right hand & a body wipe with the left.
And there’s the first slap of reality. It was that long ago. Seventeen years ago in fact. Somewhere in between I went from a wide-eyed new dad trying to understand the world of child-rearing to a mid-fifties aging geezer more concerned about how in the fuck I am going to retire in eleven years than which college my son is going to attend.
Yeah, I know, that last sentence seemed rather self-centered. More concerned about myself than my son? What kind of dad am I for thinking that way?
Well, a pretty good one, if you ask me. Elaboration – Nick is talented. He is at a magnet art school where 87 percent of the graduates receive scholarships. Nick is intelligent. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. He doesn’t need to be told what to do anymore…he just needs informed.
And that’s what my role as father has morphed to. I’m an informant.
And I’m good with that. That’s what I should be. I have to, and I do, respect that Nick is now an adult (legally at least), and we are now at a point where he has to make his own decisions. His choice of college is his decision. Of course, there are limitations; he’s not going to Harvard, and that’s where his mom and me enter the picture – a sobering dose of fiscal reality. But it is still his decision. And as he moves on from here, I look forward to a role of taking his phone calls, slipping him a twenty when he needs it, buying him a beer when he wants one, and imparting whatever the hell I have learned on him when he requests it…or even when he doesn’t.
His mom and I had long chats about Nick’s nature and whether he would be able to handle life at a college where he may not be near either one of us. She worries about that. I don’t. Because if that happens; if Nick goes to a school hundreds of miles from either of us, he will be handed daily doses of reality – his clothes won’t clean themselves. Nobody will cook his meals. He will have to do those himself.
And he should. Dude needs to learn – just like I did – that they ain’t shitting when they say to wash white separately. Wearing pink underwear that was white before washing teaches a better lesson than anything him mom or I could impart on him. In short, he has to grow up on his own. I will always love him. I will always be there for him.
But he has to do his own laundry.
On Sunday I met up with some old friends in West Palm Beach to watch the Cleveland Browns lose a football game. The President of the fan club just got married with a baby on the way. The vice president of the club showed up with his wife and two toddlers in tow. They are thirtysomethings with that wide-eyed look of ‘OMG I hope I know what I’m doing here’ on their faces.
That makes me smile. Been there, done that, got the Diaper Merit Badge.
Just don’t blink, guys. They grow up fast.
And the undeniable fact of life is, they grow up exactly when they need to.