Recently my wife and I were driving out of our neighborhood when her cell phone began to ring.
“Hey,” my wife said with a smile in her voice. I could tell instantly it was one of our kids. “Where are you?”
Our son, now a senior in college, returns to our home as often as snowflakes fall in the South. Apparently something about living in a big college town seems to keep his interest year-round, relegating those of us left behind to his memories and occasional thoughts.
As it was, we were expecting him to arrive within hours.
Listening to the conversation, both my wife and I found our hearts jump as his voice spoke.
“What?” she said. “You’re in your room? How did we pass you on the road and not see you?”
But with our son’s reply I could hear my wife’s heart drop.
“Oh, you mean you’re still in Athens? Sorry, we thought you were back in town.”
Right then, after years of apparent self-denial, my wife and I finally realized that somewhere along the way our home was just another destination for our son. His home is where his life resides. In an odd irony, we realized it is time for us, as parents, to grow up.
In all honestly, he most likely made the mental leap years ago. We, as parents, continued to live in our self-imposed delusion. Walking by the first bedroom on the left of our house, although empty of anything our son could ever need, is still referred to as his room.
The signs were always there for us to see – beyond the forwarding of his mail. We, as parents, were a little slow to accept the reality of our home getting smaller. Although we knew this to be healthy, we still always felt as if our house would be “home.”
But the signs, like I said, were there. Although his visits were brief, we could still see him getting antsy after even the shortest of time – as if a caged animal wanting to get back to the outside world and run. Our son is always pleasant, but there is no denying he’d rather be elsewhere unlocking his personal universe.
“So when do you think you’ll be here?” my wife said.
“Oh,” she said. “Be careful and we’ll see you tonight.”
As we pulled out of the neighborhood I think I finally understood the tether on the other end was permanently let loose by him long ago, leaving us to arrive at the conclusion at our own pace.
Parenting is an interesting ride. While it only seems like yesterday I first set eyes on our son, a literal lifetime is sandwiched between then and now. As parents, we couldn’t be more proud of both him and his sister. But next year comes her turn, as college is waiting for her in the fall. And with it, my wife and I will again find ourselves holding onto a tether hoping someone is still on the other end.
Woolsey is the publisher of the Times-Georgian. You can read more of his columns at www.leonardwoolsey.com.