“I know everything, Daddy.”
So proclaimed my daughter one day in her third year of existence.
Me too, I smiled.
Last week, she graduated from Grade 12.
Those early words heralded a child’s journey in an endless accumulation of knowledge.
Little did I realize at the time, my own all-knowing state would, in her view, diminish over the coming years – particularly in early teenhood, when dad would be frequently relegated to irritation status.
As alarming as this was, I took solace in the fact that other fathers, and most mothers, were experiencing the same phenomenon.
How could it be that we knew so much before our children were born, and carried that lofty mantle through their early years, yet watched as our titles as Knowers of All Things Worth Knowing steadily morphed into The Perpetually Addled?
For young parents, there’s no need to be overly concerned about this.
Your wisdom doesn’t really become lost. The trick is to stay engaged and committed through the process.
Be a relentlessly loving, patient teacher and supporter.
Through the process, your offspring’s perception of your worldly acuity becomes restored, albeit about a third of your lifetime later.
Here’s the other thing: While she’s learning, so are you.
It’s the most wonderful, confounding, frustrating, rewarding, utterly important adventure of your life, and before you know it, a large slice of it has been consumed.
As she walked across the stage last Thursday, accepting her diploma and scholarship accolades, I relived her first hours in this world, when we gazed into each other’s eyes, in equal wonderment.
I thought of the countless times we curled on the couch and read books. I remembered her amazement and delight as we travelled to different parts of the world. And I ruefully recalled the frequent occasions in the not-too-distant past where I felt as though I was an incessantly barking dog.
What an incredible project, this parenting gig.
I’m not sure there can a greater sense of accomplishment.
The opportunity to make a terrible mess of it is really quite immense. The potential to raise a smart, caring contributor to society is even more remarkable.
And, as probably most parents leaving the ceremonies last week were reminding themselves, it’s far from over – although there’s a measure of that, since many of us will see our grads leave home at the end of summer.
Like most aspects of parenthood, descriptors of changes like “empty-nest syndrome” don’t begin to articulate the feelings.
Empty-heart syndrome is more like it.
From daily contact and interaction, family suppers every night, homework projects and weekend activities, to texts, phone calls and occasional visits?
Inconceivable, but real.
How can a university possibly take the place of “home?”
Yet it does. And eventually, she will have her own home, and we would wish it no other way.
Nevertheless, my role now seems somewhat uncertain. For the past 18 years, it was so clearly, solidly defined.
Although, perhaps it doesn’t really change too much.
Give unconditional love. Provide unfaltering support.
All children deserve that from their parents. I did, and I am eternally grateful for it, and the opportunity to do so myself.
Now, my beautiful girl, step forward on your new path. Challenge yourself, and live your dreams. Care about your world.
No mom and dad could be prouder.
And as always, if you need me, I’ll be there.
But you know all that.