Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2003 / 6 Elul, 5763
Tips for Empty Nesters
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | This is proving to be one of the most difficult weeks in my life. It has nothing to do with anything I've done, but what my daughter has done.
Somehow, some way, she has found a way to grow up in an instant. This little girl who I used to hold by the hand and walk to the park, is now walking out on me. She's going to college, and she's leaving me.
Don't give me that line she has to spread her wings. It just spreads my depression. And don't tell me it's all for the good. For me right now, it's all bad, very bad.
But I know a few things about what I should do, and should not do, as I prepare to drop her off at college this week. Consider these free tips for any of you going through similar experiences:
Tip 1: "Tell" your child you're happy for them, but "think" this has easily got to be the most horrible day of your life.
Tip 2: Do not over-judge his or her roommate. Multiple rings in the nose, and Heaven knows where else, are just as easily fashion statements as they are clear and present signs of danger!
Tip 3: Wear sunglasses. It makes you look cool and your child confident that if you are going to be a blubbering mess, at least you won't look obvious.
Tip 4: Avoid baby talk. You might be tempted to say, "Well, butter cup, I think I've packed all your stuffed animals," but just suffice it to point out, "All your 48 boxes of God-knows-what are in your room, and there's no way in hell it'll all fit." Sound tough. Talk tough. Think mush.
Tip 5: Don't say as you leave, "Daddy's gonna' miss you"; just leave and go. Do not turn around. Just go.
Tip 6: Once in the car on the way home, do not converse with your spouse. My wife is taking this even harder than I am, but she has a remarkable stiff upper lip. For all you dads, do not, and I repeat, do not, look like we are actually the weaker sex (we are, by the way).
Tip 7: Avoid the temptation to phone your child as you're leaving the parking lot. It causes him or her great angst, and even greater embarrassment.
Tip 8: Avoid the temptation to phone your child 15 minutes after leaving the parking lot. Refer to Tip 7.
Tip 9: Return to life the next day focusing on things like work (and the child who's hundreds of miles away from you), the house (and the child who only moments ago was learning how to walk on the floors of that house), and the neighbors (and the child who only yesterday was playing with their kids, who have similarly left their moms and dads in this pickle).
Tip 10: Act mature, at least in public. Do anything you damn well please in private. It's your life, after all, and leave it to your own flesh and blood to destroy it.
Now some might think me selfish and immature for turning on my own daughter. They're wrong. She started it, by growing up!
It's amazing; I'm a business journalist who handles money issues every day. There's something comforting about this emotionless world. It's a great refuge for such an emotional week.
Other parents tell me it's the circle of life. Easy for them to say. Most of them have other kids. My daughter is it; she's all I have. And now my wife and I are forced to contemplate an empty bedroom and even emptier hearts. We're proud we brought her to this day, but why, oh why, did she have to bring us to this day . . . at all?
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