Roger Marolt: Tears of Joy and sorrow flowing from a common spring
They tell you to cherish every moment with your kids because that time will be gone before you know it. The advice is as solid as the observation of youth vanishing in a blink, but that doesn’t mean if you follow the instruction that things will turn out the way you think.
You have to trust me on this. My youngest of three is off to college this fall and I have no regrets, but I feel about as torn up inside as if I did.
I knew I was on the right track when I began to enjoy road trips with my kids. If driving long distances is tough, then driving long distances with small children is, in terms of inducing helpless feelings, what Dante’s Ninth Circle is to the Grand Canyon. Nobody is thought weak if they try it once and give it up forever in exchange for the brutality of airline travel.
Whether for logistical practicality or frugality I cannot recall, but I do know that we stuck to driving two trips every year to visit the grandparents in West Texas; God’s Country as the locals and almost nobody else refers to it.
While I will not call it “soon” or claim it happened “quickly,” eventually we got used to the monotony of the open road. Despite what we are taught about the politeness of making eye contact when talking, I have learned that there is something more thought-provoking and genuine about sitting next to someone in conversation with your eyes glued to the asphalt. You are forgiven for not forcing idle chit-chat and the passage of miles has a way of encouraging profundity in everyone.
I know why parents drive their kids through traffic to school every day. It is a sacrifice. It is also a great way to get to know them. And with that reflection, every would-be traffic control expert in the valley just cringed.
I don’t regret one second spent coming and going to games, outdoor education trips and every other program that kept the odometer spinning. There is no better place than on a lonely road to nowhere to discuss the important things in life such as: “Why are we here?” Wearing out a car chasing your kids’ dreams is second only to the family dinner in keeping life genuine. At the very least, we discover what love feels like in everyday form.
Those are the big ways I found to get to know my kids. But I’m not even suggesting you not dig a few curbside snow caves along the way or get into building a Lego city whenever the opportunity is right. Even letting them ride you like a bucking bronco before they get big enough to risk causing spinal injuries or turning a stuffed animal on the dresser into a headboard-climbing show-off to get them riled into a laughing fit at bedtime are good ways, too. Just don’t skimp on the driving and dinners.
Another thing you often hear about raising kids is that you must be their parent and not their friend. I pretty much completely ignored that advice. Not only did I want to be my kids’ friend, I also wanted to be their friends’ friend. Not a best one, but a wise, old one they could trust. A lot of those kids, now teetering on the verge of adulthood, call me “Rog.” I wear it like an Olympic gold medal.
I write stuff like this when everything is in flux. Aside from my youngest graduating from high school, my oldest daughter just entered the working world, my son will next year, all the while my wife and I are trying not to confuse empty nesting with retirement. Only time and the Visa bill will tell.
The faithful of this world look forward to an eternal life of blissful love and peace in the permanent landing spot that is our final destiny. It is what we pray for, but that doesn’t mean the transition isn’t painful.
The more time we spend with our kids, the more quickly time vanishes. It is the stupendous irony of cherishing every moment. It is not what I expected when I embarked on this wonderous journey. I supposed it would be the opposite. I thought it would take longer. I believed I would be satiated when this day came. I was prepared, but fooled nonetheless. So, as “Pomp and Circumstance” is struck and we send our young adults on their marvelous ways along a hedge of carnations, please excuse me as I wipe my eyes flowing forth with the tears of joy.
Roger Marolt hopes that maybe at least wisdom comes to those who allow sentimentality to overwhelm them. Email at email@example.com.