the bird leaves the nest
by stuart zitin
My little girl, born only just a moment ago, is now eighteen years
old. Rachel can vote, kill or be killed for her country, be tried
as an adult in court, serve alcohol, but still she cannot legally
drink it. Watching her grow up, supporting her, being in awe of her,
being incredibly frustrated with her, all of it has been amazingly
rewarding. Now it’s time to really let go. It seems so easy.
She’ll be going to college this fall, and I am so proud of her
- who she has become, as well as what she has achieved.
is smart, funny, compassionate, articulate, motivated, and gorgeous,
among other fabulous character traits. She has worked part-time at
the same job since she was sixteen, and they really appreciate her
there. She has close friends and an active social life, and she has
consistently challenged herself in school and done well. So I got
my two children with my wife has been the pinnacle of my life. I suspect
it will always rank as my finest accomplishment. We laugh and love
a lot, argue some, yell a little, cry occasionally, and play and travel
well together. We are all so different from one another. All along
I have been constantly changing, adapting, detaching. I’ve learned
lots about myself and others, and I have considered my fathering,
with all the mistakes and pitfalls, to be “good enough.”
I had an excellent role model in my now deceased father, who was nurturing,
strong, and well loved. Although I grew up in a loving, supportive
family, I have deepened my emotional intelligence as an adult, due
in no small part to my wife and daughter and son. I have learned to
cry sometimes and to ask for help on occasion, and even to ask directions,
my oldest is a young adult leaving the nest. She already knows how
to fly, so although my job is probably never done, my work seems to
be about—yup, letting go. I can do that. My wife Maureen is
all about the joy and pain of it. She expects to sob uncontrollably
in the beginning. In my mind, I got it handled. It is so right, so
now, it’s all good. Maureen says I’ll be one of those
guys who’s fine till the first night, when I’ll break
down and dissolve in a puddle of feelings. I have a friend who was
also confident and then felt himself “crack wide open”
(his words) after his first-born left home. He describes being on
the verge of a nervous breakdown, with all kinds of unexpected feelings
coming up. It caught him by surprise and took him a while to recover.
what’s my lesson here? Well, it hasn’t happened yet, so
I don’t rightly know. I feel certain that Rachel has all the
tools she needs to make a go of it. I firmly believe my job as a parent
is not to “empower” my children, but rather to focus their
awareness on the power inherent in them. I want them to be exposed
to all the nuances of life—the stress as well as the ease, and
to know that they can embrace all of it. In the paraphrased words
of the eminent physician and child specialist, one of my heroes, T.
Berry Brazelton, our job is not to determine what our children will
be, but to find out who they are. My hope and confidence are bolstered
when I look at who Rachel is. We’ll give her a small bottle
of mace to protect herself, a few useless words of advice, and send
her off. She’ll be just fine.
question is how will I be? I’ll still have my thirteen-year-old
boy, Ari, at home, so I’ll have to try to keep it somewhat together.
Sensitive and loving as he is, we’re likely to be crying together,
maybe moping around in a daze. We’ll get over it. What comes
up for me? First of all, I’m aging. I feel it, I look it. As
I am fond of saying, we all grow older at exactly the same rate. Since
having children, however, time seems to have accelerated tremendously.
The feeling of holding newborn Rachel in my arms—the awe, the
profound love —it is all so sharp in my memory, as if only yesterday.
I am the same person, only forever changed.
we are empty nesters, Maureen and I will make a new life for ourselves.
We’ll have a freedom we will relish, and a sadness that will
pass. We'll travel, plan retirement, God willing and the Republican
creek don’t rise and engulf us all. Hopefully we’ll become
grandparents, spoiling the wee ones and then returning them to their
parents. Our lives will continue to have the meaning that we have
always searched for. We will begin a new phase, the final phase. We
will grow old together, even grayer than we are now, hopefully vital,
if a bit bent over. we
will count on this next generation to instill a feeling of overwhelming
pride in our hearts. We will rest on our laurels. We’ll have
to clean the house by ourselves, but it won’t get dirty as quickly.
We’ll buy less groceries, cook simpler meals. We’ll sit
around with our friends and talk about our kids—not what they’ve
become, but who they are. And it will be good.
I mention how proud I am of this young woman whom I cradled in my
arms just yesterday, or was it the day before?
lives in Asheville with his wife of 23 years, and his two children
and a dog. He has gratefully been attending a men’s group here
for 11 years, and he values a great sense of humor. He is a general
contractor with 33 years of experience in building and remodeling,
and a partner in Building for Life, L.L.C. He is dedicated to affordable
housing and to promoting a healthy home and environmentally sound