Soon we’re going to finish determining if you are going to live in Philadelphia/California/Texas for college and then we’ll move on to the next steps.
Soon you’ll begin to see the impact of the choices we make or do not and understand better the limitations of our ability to see the future.
That conversation was followed by one where I told someone I was going to give them tough love and that we all have to learn how to have thicker skins, painful though it may be.
And somewhere amidst the clouds of smoke and mist I heard the voices of my father and grandfathers comments about decisions and choices.
If you asked when and where we were I could say it was when we four men gathered to watch their grandchildren while the women went to a wedding shower.
The three of them sat on the couch while I ran between rooms chasing small kids and or getting them bowls of Goldfish crackers and sippy cups of whatever drink.
They laughed watching the kids run me ragged and then I put on a video and smiled at them.
“Bet you wish you had this when I was little” knowing the stories about how active I was were not exaggeration. I was good at entertaining myself, but I was frequently on the move.
They treated me differently when I became a father, especially after I put some years in as the sole source of income.
“Joshua, you understand the load we carried differently now don’t you.”
When I nodded and smiled they gave me their own in kind.
“Don’t waste time arguing with people about whether you have a harder job than a stay-at-home mom. You can’t give birth or breast feed, but you can do all sorts of other things. They are different but still important and they carry a weight.”
That’s a superficial description of what we did together and the importance of the time we had together.
My grandfathers were around to see quite a bit, but they missed seeing the kids as teenagers.
Even though I heard stories of what their experiences were like when my parents were teens I didn’t get to swap stories about my experience as the father of teens and beyond.
Dad wasn’t around long enough for me to really get to dig into conversations about colleges and careers on a more concrete and less theoretical level.
I thought about it during the conversation about Austin versus Philadelphia. Thought about it not because I can’t make decisions without him but because he would have enjoyed hearing about the grandchildren.
He would have loved seeing the growth and choices. He would have laughed listening to me try to evaluate a couple of bucks here and there difference.
I probably wouldn’t have asked for his thoughts but I would have gotten them anyway and I know what the first two would be anyway.
“You can only play the hand you are dealt. You make the best choices you can with limited information and go from there.”
Can’t argue with either, life proved that to me long ago.
But let’s be honest, if he heard his words coming from my mouth there is a good chance he would have said “payback is sweet.”
Took a few years before I was willing to admit when I was wrong about some things and confident enough not to care.
That was one of the gifts of being the sole breadwinner. It provides a certain self confidence, not an ego stroke but self confidence that you can do something many people say can’t easily be done anymore.
Told both of my kids sometimes we need to look for those things because when you achieve something you had to work for the self confidence that comes along is a huge gift.
It is what you turn to during the hard times. It is where you go when life punches you in the mouth and you have to figure out how to figure it out.
You have done something that let’s you know you can do it. You can figure it out.
Told my daughter that whatever school she chooses is going to be fine and I do believe that. It is the not knowing that makes us crazy, the anticipation of what happens if we go left, right or diagonally.
A decision won’t remove all of the crazy but it will provide a foundation for doing so. It will help establish an opportunity to build a roadmap for next steps.
That will help.
It is a strange feeling knowing that soon there will no need for roots near a particular school or school district.
Soon a freedom that hasn’t existed in a thousand years will be back and that is the freedom to move as needed for work.
It is not to say I haven’t made some big moves while the kids were in school due to work opportunities but this opens it up further.
If I want to explore options or if things are presented I no longer have to worry about making sure there is a great school.
And in concept it changes the size of the house needed too, though I am not really ready to go down that path yet.
Some of the guys are becoming grandfathers or have already become while many others are becoming father-in-laws.
I am starting to hear conversations about the choices their sons and daughters are making in partners. Starting to hear things that sound similar to what they said for themselves and things that sound a bit like their own parents might have said.
The one guy asks what I think and I say the smart girl knows who to hold onto and who to let go of.
What am I supposed to say, not my kid, not my place. But I can see a time when I might and maybe I’ll say the same.
The choices we make or do not…