It's important to cherish time with children before they leave the nest

Feb 01, 2013

It has been a total of eight months since I moved back here to the mountains, and since I began writing a column. In those eight months, many wonderful things have happened to me, including rekindling friendships; immersing myself in the community; and just plain enjoying life again.

One thing, however, that hasn’t happened is me writing about my second daughter, London, in any of my articles. Though I’ve written about my eldest, Brandi, and the way she has helped me with my recovery by steering me back to my faith, I’ve not spent any time talking about London. And, she politely reminds me every time I write a column. In fact, her last comment was, “dad, when does the column about me get written?”

But, to my defense, I really didn’t have a reason to write about her. You see, when your sons or daughters are around you all the time, you kind of take them for granted. They’re always at the table for meals. Usually complaining that there isn’t anything to eat in the house, and tapping away on the screen of their iPhone.

But, recently we have been talking about college for her. And, it hit me. I’ve got but one more high school year with her and she’s gone. Just like Brandi, I’ll be missing another of my beautiful daughters. Off to live, learn and make mistakes. All designed to shape them into who they will become.

What brought about this thought process in my mind so far from her graduation date? A trip to a college this weekend to experience a swimming program that has shown some interest in her. I pictured her as one of the swimmers, and I talked to many parents. What I took from it was that she will be well taken care of in her new “family,” but each and every one of the parents missed their child.

Last night, as I began to prepare to go to bed, I just couldn’t help but think of the sadness I will feel when she is gone. Just like the feeling I had when her older sister left, I will again have to make an adjustment to my mental psyche. Knowing she is out there somewhere without her daddy right beside her is scary for me. All of you who have children ready to go to college know what I’m talking about. It’s a scary type of sadness, mixed in with a touch of excitement for them as they venture out on their own.

Since she has been 6, London has always been close to her daddy. She began her swimming career at that time, so we have been traveling to all parts of the country, spending lots of time as a family in hotel rooms, and sitting through countless swim meets. I’m not complaining at all, as I realize that what we have had as a family for these 10 years is a way to bond like many families never do. Sure we have our occasional flare-ups. Especially when I pretend I know something about swimming. But, all in all, it has been a good time — one that I will terribly miss when she leaves for college.

I know parents never enjoy seeing their child leave the proverbial “nest,” and this will be no exception.

We have a whole list of colleges that London wants to tour to find the right fit for her swimming career. As each one comes and goes, I will get that same funny feeling in my stomach.

But, as my eldest has taught me, God, who has been helping me be a daddy all these years, will take over a little more of those duties in my absence. So, knowing that fact, which is assured to me through my faith, I am not the least bit worried about her well-being. I’m just going to miss the simple things I take for granted. Like watching “Say Yes to the Dress” or “Dance Moms,” two shows I detest. But, because my girls like watching them, I sit right next to them and watch as well.

So, I told myself last night that I’m not going to take anything for granted with London for the next year-and-a-half. I am going to enjoy every minute we have left under the same roof, and hopefully our bond will stay strong forever. And, I’m going to continue to strengthen the bond I have with the two remaining children I have left, Kiana and Easton.

Because once London is gone, I get to focus on her younger sister Kiana, who in a few short years, will be making me go through the same emotional rollercoaster. She, too, is a swimmer, so we will still get to spend that quality time together.

I know letting go is part of being a dad. But, I find it one of the most difficult tests God gives me. If it weren’t for the faith I have that He will protect, guide and nurture our children, I don’t think I could get through it without medication.

It’s a good thing God decided to give me a son who is going to be around for quite some time. I guess He knew that I was the kind of father that needs to have the love and camaraderie of my children to make me complete. And, I know that once they are gone, I’ll be just fine.

So, London, here’s your column. I am looking forward to the time we have left together, and I know I can’t slow it down. But, I promise you that I will be there for you every step of the way, and hope you will enjoy this time together as much as I will.