Next week our daughter graduates from high school. Ordinarily, this might not be considered a particularly big deal. But, it represents a huge transition in our lives. After 40 years of marriage our last child is ready to become an adult and the path we’ve taken to reach this point has been long and circuitous.
You see, we had our first child in the 1970s, our second in the 1980s and our last in the 1990s. How unusual this is in the grand scheme of things, I’m not really sure. It just seems like a couple having three children in three different decades would be worthy of note on some level.
Our first son, born in 1975 arrived during the era when Mom went it alone while Dad paced for hours in the waiting room, chain-smoking and passing our cigars when the blessed even finally took place. Our second son came into the world when Lemaze and natural childbirth, while accepted were still considered a bit radical and Dad wasn’t allowed to get in the way until the very last moment. For the birth of our daughter in 1991, not only was natural childbirth accepted, it was practically expected and Dad, while not actually having a whole lot to do, was present and accounted for from the beginning to the end of the process.
All of our friends from the 70s have long since become empty-nesters, while by necessity and circumstance we’ve experienced three separate and distinctly different phases of parenthood and subsequently, we’ve developed peer relationships with three different age groups. In our 20s, we were typical young parents with their first and only child. In our 30s we began to notice that we didn’t really fit in with the rest of the new moms and dads at birthdays and other gatherings. And in our 40s, it became painfully obvious that it was being assumed that we were just grandparents filling in for the day.
Having children so widely separated by age has had its advantages and its disadvantages. On the upside, we have always had a baby sitter when we needed one. We have also been able to more economically space out our college tuition requirements. Along the way, one learned to drive in time to schlep the others around when the need arose. On the downside, I’m a 60-year-old father of a graduating senior and I have had very little time alone with my wife over these many years. Strangely, while I’ve dreamed of having lots of time to spend together, I’m not entirely sure we’ll know what to do with ourselves when the opportunity finally arrives.
When your entire life has been devoted to raising your children … when almost every thought and every action centered on how it would affect your kids, what do you do when the day finally arrives when realize that you don’t have to do that anymore?
Our daughter graduates from high school next week and I honestly don’t know how I feel about that just yet.