Here is my column in yesterday’s Greenville News, concerning the transitions of our children’s lives, and the anxiety it those changes provoke in all of us, their crazy parents.|newswell|text|Opinion|s&nclick_check=1

Off they go this week! Wee children to day-care, pre-school and kindergarten. Others to first days at middle school and high school. And then, the big move. All across the nation, folks are sending their children to college, the military, technical schools or into the work force.

What it all means is this: we slowly, but surely, let them slip from our white-knuckled grip. We cry that first day, when they turn from us and go to new friends or teachers, to shiny rooms with the delicious smell of crayons and construction paper. We worry when they board the bus, that someone will bully them, or that no one will realize how amazing, how spectacular, how special they are! And when they leave home, beginning their own lives in adulthood, we fear that we have not done enough.

If, while reading this, you nod your head, or your eyes become misty with memory (or anticipation), here’s a hint: you probably are doing just fine as a mom or dad.

My experience is a bit different every year. My kids, home-schooled all, have spent an enormous among of time with their mother and with me. While in some ways it makes the transitions easier, in others it makes it harder. They are the living, breathing background of our everyday lives. It’s simply a reality of our choices. I’m not saying it’s better, or worse, than any other option. I am saying that my knuckles, too, are white at every turn.

We have one entering middle school, one already there, and two in high school (or the equivalents thereof). Although they take classes outside our home, the demarcations of their lives are less striking. Nevertheless, we feel, and watch, the changes in them no less than the leaves turning green and falling, or the sky darkening with Autumn.

I find myself pensive this time of year, every year, as does my wife, the mother and teacher of our children. It’s often a time of panic and anxiety. ‘Are they ready? Have we done enough?’ We can’t blame anyone but ourselves if they aren’t. But we also ask, with increasing regularity, ‘how much time is left?’ Like children ourselves, desperate to stay on a merry-go-round, we watch the clock and calender, fretful of the time when our services will no longer be required, when our family taxi service will cease, our vast library be more memorial than functional.

Contemplating it, I catalog the things I hope to teach yet. You see, there are things on the curriculum, which we have covered fairly well. But there are others. Do they know how to change tires? Do they understand money? Can they handle tools safely? Will they understand relationships? Will they avoid evil and poor choices? Do they know they can always come back? Good heavens, can they find water in the desert and start a fire with a cotton ball and a cell-phone? Great Scott, there’s work to be done!

Obviously, I am a little unstable. But we are all a bit nutty when it comes to the children we bear and raise to womanhood and manhood. We are all frantic and desperate. Possibly because life is now so much more than mere survival to adulthood, which not so long ago was the main success every parent hoped to attain. Now we take that (too often) for granted, and focus our energies on success, education, position. Maybe it’s better; maybe it’s the wrong perspective.

Either way, I know a couple of things from this annual contemplation. First, though loving parents fear obsolescence, it rarely occurs. Love is never obsolete, never unnecessary. And if we have lived with, loved and spoken to our children as we raised them, they will always come to us, for wisdom, for guidance, or simply for the comfort and continuity we provide.

Second, we can never teach them enough. And we need not stop teaching them. It may take the form of memory, letters, text messages or conversations on porches, lessons taught while walking on vacation. It may take the form of shared interests or activities. When we sign on as parents, we sign on to be life-long instructors, even as we are life-long care-givers.

So fear not, fellow parents. The future is terrifying! But the connection, once formed in love, is irrevocable. And believe it or not, our kids want it to remain that way.

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