A 24 Hour Job
Our first of four children was born nearly thirty years ago. He is also the last to leave the nest, not counting a tour of duty in the Air Force. He is also a History major working toward his professorship. The other three, another son, 25, and two daughters, 26 and 28, left the nest when they were 18 or so, except for the 28 year old, she is developmentally disabled and lives in a group home about an hour away. The 26 year old has given us a grandchild, and has worked her way up in the banking profession. She is now the Vice-President in her area of the Midwest. We are proud of her. Our youngest son is a very accomplished artist, “dabbles in school”, and works as a waiter for a French Bistro Café on the Disneyland strip in California. He does okay, struggles a bit, but we wish that he would take school a little more seriously. We try to offer our advice and assistance, but these kids act as if we are butting in.
Being a parent is a 24 hour, 7 day a week job. It goes on 365 days a year, year after year, and it doesn’t stop when the kids turn 18, or move out. It goes on forever, as long as we are able to draw a breath. My youngest daughter seems to think that the advice that I give her are the ramblings of a “silly old fat man”, but she still calls me when she wants to know what that red light on her dash board means, or if my grandson has a burning fever and she can’t get it down. She calls to tap into the experience that only time can provide, and I cheerfully give it to her…even in the middle of the night.
Her older brother is getting married this summer to a girl that he has dated for 6 years. She is a nice girl, but she is very controlling and demanding. I feel that we would not be doing our parental duties to let this marriage proceed without something being said, at least to him. In my mind, it is better to have a heart to heart talk with him about the whole big picture and about the “what if’s” of married life that I have learned over the last thirty years. But alas, my wife is afraid that he will turn against us if we try to interfere. One thing that I have learned over the years is that the kids will pout, they will tell you the meanest things, and they will really hurt your feelings and then they will not talk to you for days, weeks or months. But they always come back. They will always reach out for mom and dad eventually. And despite the time spent apart, the bad things that were said, the “bad blood” that was created, you still have a place for them in your heart, because that’s what dads do. It’s what moms do. It is what family is about.
Being a parent is a lifelong commitment that punches no clock, has no contracts or expiration dates. It is an obligation to yourself and to your child that is solidified at the moment of conception. Being a parent can be the worst job in the world at times, and it can be the best. It can be messy and it can be sweet. Being a parent means long nights rocking a colicky baby, or worrisome time spent in an ER. It means that when your teenage daughter goes out on a date for the first time that you are confident that you have instilled the right morals in her head so she can make wise decisions when she is away from you.
And when that day comes when you are sitting with your child at the hospital, and he or she is holding their first child in their arms for the first time, you smile. You smile because your mind is flooded with the memories of the day that they were born, and at how scared you were because suddenly you were a dad or a mom, and you were afraid of what the future might bring. And you looked up at your mom and dad as they smiled, and that smile made you feel good.
When I became a grandparent for the first time, I was happy. I was happy for my daughter, because now she was a first year student at Lifetime University, a school of continuing education that you never graduate from. It is a school of hard knocks and soft puffy clouds. And I was glad that she and I were finally classmates.
©2011 by Del Banks