Dear readers — I’ve been writing this column since 1994, I think. I’ve lost track, but through these many years, I’ve shared my thoughts on social issues, culture, and a variety of contemporary topics as well as numerous articles on parenting and child-rearing.
But most personal to me are the stories I’ve shared with you about my children and my role as a father.
My very first article in The Citizen was a story about a short interaction I had with my daughter who was only in first grade back then. My second child was a toddler at the time and my son hadn’t been born yet.
That seems so very long ago, and in the time in between I’ve written about my mistakes and my failures as well as important moments in the life of a parent — an important conversation, a graduation, or a meaningful trip together.
And now, as eventually happens to all of us, my children are long since grown and gone. One lives in a neighboring state, my second on another continent, and my son — nearest to me — is about two hours away.
Even though we are separated by space, we talk often and I am so proud of how they have blossomed into individuals — the uniqueness of each of their personalities glaringly obvious in their job choices, their interests, and their activities.
On our first major family trip abroad years ago I told my children that if they wanted to be comfortable to stay home, but if they wanted an adventure to come with me. They have never looked back for the comfortable. Each of them embraces life at its fullest, never letting adventure slip away, and that couldn’t make me happier.
Even though there were challenges here and there, I loved every stage of life with them from infancy onward. There were many experiences with them that I realized at the time were fleeting. I know I wrote to you about those moments when they were happening and how I tried to fully absorb them, knowing they would be moments soon passed.
There are many things I miss. I miss the excitement of birthdays, parties, and the joy of children’s voices in the swimming pool.
I don’t miss long school awards programs or waiting an hour or more through several choirs, orchestras, or bands for my child’s time to perform. But I do miss the glow in my children’s faces when they performed well, enjoyed an experience, or received an award.
I miss coaching my son’s soccer team and even though I’m about as introverted as one can be, I miss some of the families we got to know through athletics. Most of them I’ve never seen again.
I miss rocking my children in the middle of the night when they were babies and even to this day, when a loud clap of thunder awakens me in the night, I pause for a moment waiting for the patter of little feet fleeing the frightful darkness of their upstairs bedrooms for the safety of our king-size bed.
I don’t miss being awakened at night by crying children and no, I don’t want to go back. I love my empty nest, watching shows I want to watch, eating dinner when I want to, and making food I like.
I love my Saturday’s unencumbered and I definitely don’t miss the weekly petition of, “Hey dad, I need (fill in a dollar amount between $100 and $2,000) for (fill in the blank with a school trip, athletic event, dance costume, band uniform, etc).”
I don’t miss the unbelievable expense of college, but I don’t regret the 12 years my wife and I struggled to get each of them through college with zero debt. It was a fabulous investment.
But I do miss the little fingers of my children in my hand and I miss the amazement in their eyes when I made something, fixed something, or performed some other miracle that now is business as usual to them. I miss being greeted by them at the airport when I returned from a trip. Little arms around my neck and their faces so full of happiness to have daddy home.
Father’s Day has come and gone. I didn’t need a party and I didn’t need presents or cards. I’m dad. I know that, and every morning I drink my coffee in a cup that was a gift from one of my children. It says, “Dad — Fixer Of Things.”
Hot coffee, early in the morning, in my special cup. That is all I need and even though I miss some things, I can’t wait to see what the future brings them.
[Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., is a college professor, published author, licensed counselor, certified professional counselor supervisor, newspaper columnist and public speaker. His website is gregmoffatt.com.]