I have been fortunate that my children, all adults, live close to me. My oldest son, Josh, works in my office. My middle son, Ben, lives with us and just graduated from nursing school. My youngest son, Dan, and his wife, Caley, live in Wichita. About a year ago, Dan started a new job with a large medical supply company.
While I was thankful at Christmas for my good fortune of having all of my family together, I have been well aware that all of this could change – Ben could get a nursing job elsewhere, and Dan’s company could transfer him.
I was not surprised when Dan contacted me to let me know he was interviewing with other positions with his employer that would involve moving to either New Mexico, North Carolina or Minnesota. My heart sank, but I bit my tongue. He wanted to discuss it with my wife and I.
One of the most difficult parts, for me, about the second half of life is letting go of our children. Raising my children was the best job I ever had. When they were young, I scaled back my work to coach them in soccer and to attend all of their events.
When I was young, I played football in a small town – one where the fans and parents would park their cars around the football field. They would watch from the hood of the cars, or if cold or rainy, from inside their cars. When something great happened, they would all join in honking their horns in one chorus.
I can still remember my stepfather in the end-zone, acting as proud of me as if I were his own son. He was at every event. Just him being there was important for me.
As I grew into adulthood, he was always there for me. In retrospect, I admire how he would give me his advice, but would always let me know that the decisions were mine. So, it was always important for me to be there for my kids as they grew – supporting them in good and in bad times, just as my stepfather had.
There is a saying from a movie: “No matter how old you get, you’re always a parent”. As we grow older, there sure is a tendency to want to do more than just “be there” for our kids. We must fight the tendency to want to continue to manage our children as if they were still children. I fight that myself.
Part of the second half of life is being there for our children, just as my stepfather was. Yet, we need to let them make their own decisions, good or bad, but with our gentle advice – and always our support.
My wife and I went to meet with Dan and Caley about their possible move. They went through the various options, leaning more towards North Carolina. In my head, I wanted to scream, “Don’t go”, but I had to let them do what was best for them.
Then they said, “We’re not going to do anything since WE ARE HAVING A BABY, and you’re both going to be grandparents.”
What a New Year’s surprise—our first grandchild (and I will be a “great” grandfather).
I hope your New Year is full of great surprises. Mine sure got off on the right foot.
Randy Clinkscales of Clinkscales Elder Law Practice, PA, Hays, Kansas, is an elder care attorney, practicing in western Kansas. To contact him, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclaimer: The information in the column is for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Each case is different and outcomes depend on the fact of each case and the then applicable law. For specific questions, you should contact a qualified attorney.