A special time

I’m just back from several days of vacation with my son Grant. We started at Lake Tahoe, nourishing my love of the mountains, and then spent a couple days in Reno, nourishing his love of cars. Hot August Nights, a nationally-known car show, was chalking up its 25th year, with probably thousands of cars touring the city.

The greatest joy of the trip was being able to spend time with Grant, both of us largely unplugged from our normal routines and distractions. At 15, nearing 16, he’s contemplating what to do with his life. Paraphrasing Rilke, Grant is living in the questions more than finding answers, and it was a privilege to be able to hear him articulate a few of those questions and possible answers.

With my daughter off to college in a few short weeks, I’m reminded of how fleeting life is. Often we don’t recognize this until we encounter a sudden, unexpected transition. Too soon, Grant will also be off. Fortunately, in the coming years, I’ll have the memories from this week to recall.


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One of those parenting moments

My son’s first experience with a sleep-over camp several years ago wasn’t good. Away for a week in the north country of New Hampshire, not knowing anyone, camping in a tent, and living on peanut butter sandwiches, he was desperately homesick.

So I carried an unspoken trepidation as we drove up and dropped him off at a week-long running camp last Sunday. This was the first overnight camp for him since that disaster.

Thanks to cell phones and text messages, which we didn’t have last time, I was able to check in daily and gently probe. Although he didn’t sleep well the first night, I sensed no homesickness. The food was good, and he seemed to be enjoying the running regimen.

His commitment to running had been the source of other questions rolling around my mind. He was reluctant to run all summer. After several years of fall cross-country and spring track, I thought he was burned out. Were my wife and I pushing him to attend this camp simply because we wanted him to continue running?

This morning we drove north to pick him up. As we pulled up to the cabin, chatted with him and his camp mates, and collected his belongings, my impressions were confirmed. He had a good time. On the ride home, he spoke of wanting to go back each year through high school and of running lessons he learned for himself through his own experience.

Although he and I haven’t discussed it, no doubt he had some reservations and uncertainty as we drove to camp last week. But he faced them and had a very positive experience. His self-confidence was surely strengthened, a significant milestone on his path to adulthood.

Grant, I’m proud of you.

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Father’s Day

While it’s supposed to be my day, when my children express appreciation for my role as father, I feel more comfortable expressing my own gratitude for them and the gifts they give me every day.

Andrea, now entering her senior year, has developed into such a kind and compassionate human being. She’s bright and works hard, yet infuses what she does and those around her with enthusiasm and joy. A young woman, she is stepping across the threshold of adulthood, leaving her childhood to the photos.

Grant is completing 8th grade and middle school. This has been a tough year for him, as he seems to be struggling with his identity and values, particularly questioning school and authority. The result: lower grades and calls from teachers about his behavior.

It’s disappointing, as the one value I would impart to him above all others is respect for others. And his dropping grades don’t reflect his aptitude. Yet I recall that Andrea faced similar challenges during her 8th grade year, so I’m hopeful this is a normal developmental stage, a transition en route to adulthood.

Despite my disappointment and frustration, I nonetheless feel grateful for Grant’s presence. He’s kind, sensitive, bright and full of ideas and dreams. I wonder where he will take them.

The words from Khalil Gibran’s On Children reflect a theme of my parenting philosophy:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Thanks, Andrea and Grant, for the privilege of being your father and sharing your journey.

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