Tag Archives: raising kids

A fledgling leaves the nest

He left for his final training run here in Oregon around 10:30 a.m. I teased him about the intense heat. It’s supposed to be 97 degrees today, a slight downturn from yesterday’s 101.

Last night I made him some sockeye salmon on the grill, and last week we went for a Father’s Day hike up to just one more of the many beautiful places here in Oregon.

Part of me wants all of these memories to stick with him through the next four years of college. So that he longs for this place like a small ache.

We’re far from an empty nest with a 16-year-old high school junior and an 11-year-old headed to junior high. But the very first to fledge is leaving this week.

We have a week to get used to this idea, as his mother and I drive him across the country to his old high-school haunts and the college where he will live for the next four school years.

We’ve had 19 years to get used to this idea, but we spent them living instead of worrying about this day.

As I reflect on our life with him, I’m struck by a number of things. That children improve your lives goes without saying. But the joy they bring really is immeasurable.

We had our challenges. All those transitions. From nursing to solid foods. Preschool. Kindergarten. All day school. High School.

Cole was born in Hawaii, where we spent most of his first year. Then we moved back to Oregon.

We spent the next three years traveling to places like New Zealand and Bosnia, and then added a little brother to the mix.

We spent the next two years in Oregon where I was studing journalism. We added a little sister to the crowd, then we moved to Montana.

All through these transitions. Cole was either experiencing them or helping us through them with all the grace and agility of a first born.

After another move to Alaska and yet another to Chicago, I started to make promises that we would settle in to allow him to finish high school with his friends.

I was unable to keep that promise in the end, and still, with more grace than I had any right to expect, he finished his senior year across the country back where we started this adventure.

A final fishing trips with him before he sets off.

Joy, grace, laughter, tears, these are a few of the many things I have felt or experienced during the last nineteen years with my oldest son.

I know I’m losing him now for a little while as he makes a transition that I can’t accompany him on. I know that he’ll be busy forging a new life for himself, and I’m excited for him.

May the same joy and grace you have brought to my life also inhabit the new life you build for yourself.

God speed you on your way and bring you back around from time to time, my son.

The Costs of Coming Home

Eight-Year SojournTurns out you can come home again.

But it will cost you.

What it will cost you is a matter of what you put in to the decision to leave home in the first place.

Did you leave home out of fear? Fear that you’d never amount to anything there. Was it too small to contain you? Constantly running to the edges of town like a Bruce Springsteen song. Was it wanderlust? The kind of wanderlust seeing all the home towns on earth can’t cover.  Continue reading The Costs of Coming Home

Teenage Politics

Politics

On Thursday, around our dinner table, I couldn’t help but think that my kids are becoming really great liberals.

If liberals means they espouse a political ideology founded upon ideas of liberty and equality.

We discussed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the State of the Union address, the economic impact of falling oil prices and, of course, school testing, a topic they are all too familiar with and opinionated about.

As I listened to each of them make a case for or an argument against some aspect of our discussion, it dawned on me that they have become what I had hoped they would.

Independent thinkers.

Thoughtful question askers.

Skeptical analysts.

I was fast becoming a Young Republican at their age, bent on making my worldview, the one I had fashioned as a second generation immigrant, work for me.

Continue reading Teenage Politics

The High School Years –

I remember sitting in the hospital in Honolulu when he was born. I was 24, he was late. Our families were planning on going home the next day. The doctor decided to induce Cheryl to encourage Cole to join us on the outside. Cole tends to do things on his own good sense of timing and order. Should’ve realized that then.

It was a meaningful moment for me, to say nothing of what it meant to Cheryl. I held him and looked into his grey eyes and saw the rest of my life.

Yesterday he started high school. He’s 14, which means, well, I’ll let you do the math.

I remember my first day of high school. There is an uncertainty inherent in the unknowns associated with entering a new era, but there is the realization of the impending finality of the primary school years. The end is near, and you can feel that at the beginning of it all.

A doctor measured Cole’s height this week during a physical for school. He’s been taller than me for a few months now, but I refused to let him measure himself against me. As a dad, you can’t give up that easy. Some days you let them know they can win and other days you keep them trying so they learn they have to.

But it’s hard to argue with a doctor’s note.

There’s an element of pride in all of this. Cole was a big reason for moving to Chicago. He has been in need of some stability so he can focus on his college and career ambitions. My journalistic nomadism has not given him that so far.

Yesterday he told me about how he is taking four honors classes this semester. He’s taking German for his language, but it’s not because I took German in high school. He’s taking German because he’s interested in design, and Germany has some of the best design schools in the world.

He is not me. My experience will not be his. I’m so grateful for this.

After hearing of his course load and interest in German, I felt like I needed to say something. Dad’s often make this mistake. Approval does not often need words. Sometimes the unspoken approval of our fathers counts for much more.

I told Cole, who had a girlfriend in Alaska, that he should consider really throwing himself into his studies instead of losing focus on those other rights of passage that tend to define high school.

He looked at me with that look that he gives me when he wonders why I’m just repeating, out-loud, the thoughts already going through his mind.

“I know, dad, I’m going to be too busy for a girlfriend,” he said, in that low voice that still throws me sometimes when I hear the wisdom in it.

It has been this way long before we had schools in brick buildings with mandated testing straight out of an Orwell novel.

Fathers watch their children grow into something more than themselves. It’s one of the wonders of this existence, the magnification of life. It’s the molecular level of empire building.

Watching my son turn into something bigger than both of us are individually is frightening and thrilling. I feel my youth like yesterday, and I’m still looking for a  bigger canvas on which to leave my mark, though I realize the error of this thought process keenly with each passing month. But watching him looking farther down the road than I did and dreaming bigger is so satisfying, in a way I’m reasonably sure you can only feel after spending  14 years growing something that you love beyond words.

I never felt it at the city league soccer games he played or the cross country races he ran. Though I certainly felt pride in my son.

But I feel it keenly today as he walks into a world I never knew. A brighter, stronger and hungrier version of me.

And and I think that everything is as it should be.

Comfortably Disappointing your Children and Other Lessons

Life has a penchent for providing serious disappointment. We are optimistic beings from birth, losing it gradually to the process of life. 

Today I came home to find my middle child balled up on the couch wearing his University of Montana Grizzly helmet and holding a picture frame full of photos of he and his best friend from Missoula. 

I didn’t need to ask him what was wrong, I already knew. 

We recently decided to put our first home, the Missoula house, up for sale. I think the kids secretly held out hope that we might go back to that paradise that is northwest Montana. 

Transition is tough. Just when you think you’ve settled into whatever you’re currently doing, old feelings come back to haunt you. We’ve seen this with the kids several times over our last year-and-a-half in Alaska. 

When I was laid off from the newspaper, we argued about whether or not to tell the kids about it. But having me around the house more often than not didn’t seem that easy to hide. 

We decided to manage the disappointment, hoping that it would provide some kind of strength conditioning for the kids. Remember, they don’t come with a manual. 

They came through the layoff and a move of thousands of a miles to a land like Narnia frozen in perpetual winter. They’ve been disappointed. They’ve been rewarded. They know what to expect in a world that is often full of both. 

So tonight I didn’t try to fix my little guy. I let him spend a few minutes mourning the knowledge that we wouldn’t be going back to Missoula or living in that house again. 

He’s become a resilient little guy over his 10 years. And I love that about him. 

He took the helmet off and put away his picture frame and came to the dinner table with a smile and told me all about his day. 

I don’t worry about him facing those tough times that will inevitably come his way in the future. He’s got a few calluses built up.