A Bird Takes Flight
Saturday, August 17th, was Move In day at UCF. It was a day for the bird, Chimmy to his friends, to take flight. To leave the nest. To strike out on his own, at least somewhat. (Until you’re paying for everything, you’re not really on your own.)
As we crossed the bridge to Tampa, a jet rose into the sky, leaving the airport. Not an uncommon occurrence when you cross the bridge, but it doesn’t happen all the time, either. I looked at my wife and said, ‘Looks like a sign. A jet takes off. A kid takes off.’
For someone who’s never spent much time away from home, or from his parents, this is a big step. I understood his trepidation, leaving friends, work, family – all the familiar support mechanisms – to immerse himself in a new environment: the college dorm. Fortunately, he’s less than 2 hours away. Still, he’s over 9,000 miles from his birth home, so even within two hours, his support group is limited compared to what he left to come here.
We loaded up 2 cars with what I thought was a lot of stuff. Until I saw others moving in. Our son was shocked at the amount of possessions others brought, too. I even saw one family drive up with a small U-Haul trailer!
Too Little Time
If I could talk to his dad, I would tell him what a wonderful son he helped raise. His son? I’ve known him only a short time, and spent most of that time attempting to help him transition into American life, to learn some of the ins and outs of its customs and culture, and train him to manage on his own (for example, in learning to drive). I’ve tried to smooth the transition of adapting to life here and still maintaining a close relationship with his mom, as I’ve read of other families where the teenagers rebel against their parents due to the differences in culture between here and their homeland. I didn’t want that to happen, but knew it wouldn’t because of the way he was brought up.
When our kids leave home, we are tempted to continue to counsel them, teach them, guide them, so that they avoid the mistakes we might have made growing up. And sometimes, they will ask for our guidance and help. But for the most part, I think they have to experience it on their own, to learn from those they are in closest proximity to (roommates, classmates).
Most often you will read that women (moms) suffer the most from empty nest syndrome, but I think dads suffer in a different way. It may not be so much a depression or sense of loss, but rather a sense of loss of control and protection. Yes, moms want to protect their children as well, but I think a dad’s protection is different. He wants to feel as if his knowledge and experience will be valued by the child. As Mark Twain once said, though, that value will only make itself known over time.
Good Luck, We’re Here if You Need Us
He’s coming back for a visit, soon, and I know his mom is happy. I am, too. But most of all, I would tell him that although he’s now into a new and exciting experience – and we wish him all the best in learning and growing up – he’s not alone. Just as we call our parents (Okay, not as often as I should – sorry Mom and Dad!) no matter how old we are, and talk about things so we can get their inputs, we’ll be here for him, as I know his dad is back home, so that when things seem overwhelming, he’ll have a voice of calm reassuring him that everything will be okay. That we love and support him.