THE PARENT FILES: Home again, but our son is not here anymore.



I vividly remember my son’s birth because it marked the end of my life.

Before the moment my wife delivered him into my hands, I was a Master of the Universe.  And then I found myself looking down at this little thing, unfinished, barely begun, and realized that, despite all I was, all I had done, all I had seen, I was nevertheless no longer the main character in my own story.  Something bigger had pushed me aside effortlessly, without any regard for who or what I was.

I was unprepared. My hubris guaranteed that. But it didn’t matter. None of it mattered.

In a nanosecond I became a parent – and everything changed.

I changed. I had to. I was responsible for shaping a new life. If I didn’t love my wife before that, I loved and adored her then.  I realized that I was not the kind of man I wanted my son to be, and that meant I needed to become something different. I became a good citizen, a good husband and – I hoped – a good father.  I tried to model patience, temperance and prudence I did not possess. I tried to be a better man because I wanted my son to be a better man than me.

19 years came and went, so fast. Dear Lord, so fast.  Two days ago, my wife and I left our son in Montana after moving him into his dorm room, and we drove away back to California. Once again, life as I know it has ended.  And I am sad. I miss my son, my only child. My wife misses him more, which I do not resent.  I’ve heard about the “empty nest” syndrome, but never imagined it would feel so awful.  I am still a parent, of course (that will never change) but my son no longer lives with us, and, if all goes well, he will never live with us again.  He may visit, and I hope his visits are long, but he will never live here again.

I did my best, but was it good enough? I don’t know. And that bothers me.



12 Responses to “THE PARENT FILES: Home again, but our son is not here anymore.”

  1. “I did my best, but was it good enough? I don’t know. And that bothers me.”
    I’ll second that. Our last just moved out (apart from about 5 cu metres of old t-shirts, books, games and assorted tat). Last night I took his desk and PC over to the share house at West End – when the PC goes, that’s it. Not sure what your local equivalent of West End is Paul, but it’s full of students, hippies and weirdos. And Quokka’s favourite Irish backpackers. I met his intelligent and studious-looking girlfriend and a large Jamaican with dreads who called me “mon” and “sah”. Ah well, he’s 27, I know there have been occasions on which he has shown honour and courage and he has a job. I wish your son well Paul & I’m sure he hasn’t lacked for good parenting. More to the point, may you and your wife come to appreciate the positives of the empty nest – water bill halved, power by a third, food ditto, washing by half. And privacy!


  2. Just think, now you and the missus will be able to walk around the house wearing those dandy wild west outfits and eating cookie dough straight from the pack.
    I s’pose you just have to trust yourself that you’ve done a good job. (Then eat the cookie dough).


  3. Beautifully said, in better words than I can ever hope to say exactly as I feel.

    My son is only 10, TEN years looking back it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

    Thank you for reminding me what is really important.


  4. Well said and I can only wish that such life changing experiences can come my way…


  5. Powerful stuff. Did you do well?. He’s at Uni isn’t he?. lol *rollies* I think you did alright mate.


  6. Perhaps the toughest feeling in the world was to transition my daughter to college. I feel your pain and joy all at once…


  7. paulboylan Says:

    Thanks folks. I appreciate it, but it is cold comfort at best.

    There is, however, an immediate upside: I finally have the time to read After America. If all goes well, I will be done by the end of the week and will finally be able to read the discussion threads over at JB’s place without risking the spoiler effect. I already know a main character is going to die after making the mistake of scanning the Geek.


  8. Jyggdrasil Says:

    That was tremendously well written. Thank you.


  9. Oh Paul. That was beautiful.



  10. Damn you, Boylan, for the tears I just shed. And now, suddenly, it seems frighteningly soon that I’ll be facing the same empty space, and asking myself the same question.

    I can only say this: if you didn’t do fatherhood well, I suspect nobody can.


  11. To borrow the title of a well regarded parenting book from the Antipodes: he’ll be right.


  12. All parents are going to project into this one without a second thought; I feel like crying thinking about how you must have felt– that first step into a world you know ,right now, is not going to be the same.

    You’ll adjust, slowly, and part of what will help the transition is that your son will want you to be happy–happy for him and for all the things you can still look forward to in your own life.

    And don’t even ask if you did alright; clearly you did and even when you think you didn’t, chldren experience it differently and see the bigger picture.


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