I may have mentioned to you that my wife and I have four children, and all of them are out of the house and in varying stages of adulthood. Here’s a report from the empty nest.
The other day I received a text message from my 21-year-old son who is a junior at a university that I won’t mention except to say that everybody there wears red and black and barks like dogs.
I enjoy getting text messages from my children because they usually share some random observation that made them think of me and reminded them they should keep in touch with their old man because, you know, they may need to ask him for money.
My kids reserve all communication about complicated or practical matters – such as paying taxes or dealing with the utility company or studying for a big test – for their mother.
They might consult with me about writing an essay when they haven’t read any of the assigned material, or getting out of some other
sort of trouble.
Anyway, this son of mine sent me a text as he was leaving a test in one of his business classes. The class was risk management or insurance or business law or something. I’ve never taken a business class in my life, but my son was reaching out to let me know he’d gotten one of the test questions correct because of me.
Naturally, I was curious how such a thing could have occurred.
As it turned out, one of the test questions was about the longshoreman’s union in Baltimore, a subject in which my son is well-versed because I let him watch the second season of “The Wire” with me on HBO when he was in middle school. Let’s just say that each show began with a parental advisory so strong that Bess wouldn’t watch it with us.
This was probably not a great parenting decision, but I guess the point I’m making here is that if he’d spent that time memorizing Bible verses with his mother he would have gotten that particular question wrong.
The other point I’d like to make is about parenting in general. In my mind, what matters is that my children are happy about where they are in life, what they’re doing, and who they’re with, and that the world is somehow better because they’re in it.
It’s about them, not me.
I know some folks who’ve gone back to their adult children and asked them how they did as parents, and what’s the point in that? The kids either lie and say their parents were perfect, or the kids are going through some sort of hardship and need somebody to blame and so they unload on them.
I know this: If your kids, at any age, sense you’re coming to them for affirmation, they’re going to knock you down a peg. That’s what kids do.
Certainly, we parents should do the best we can. But I’ve known kids with terrific parents who turned out to be terrible, and kids with terrible parents who turned out to be terrific.
In the end, the grown human being is going to get the credit or shoulder the blame, and that’s the way it should be.
Those are my thoughts from the empty nest, where I’m just living life and hoping to get a text sometime from Athens or Memphis or Charlotte, the places where my kids have landed.
I’ll take whatever I can get.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org