Yesterday, I had to mow my own lawn. Actually I wasn’t even that sad about that - it only takes about an hour to really do a number on my lawn. I do the mowing, of course, along with regular mower maintenance. Then I get the trimmer out and move the infringing grass back off of the cement walkways and what-not. Heck, I even took the time to fertilize. It was all done while I walked, contemplating what had just happened. A life event. A first. My indentured lawn-mower had left home and went to college!
Rewind to Thursday. Move-in day for Freshmen. Ethan was up by 6:15, which almost never happens. He had spent the last evening with Rachel and Leo - based on the house cameras, they were all there until just after midnight. After my morning status calls, I saw Ethan sitting on the opposite side of the kitchen table, pillow in hand, just waiting for adulthood to start, I suppose.
He was nervous. I was nervous. But I played the part of the “adult” and tried to lighten the mood with talks of The Marvel Cinematic Universe or dad jokes in general. It worked - for awhile.
We got to Regis on the northwest side of town by about 7:30. We saw a volunteer in a yellow safety vest and headed towards her to find out what we were missing. Apparently it was a lot! She directed us to a different lot to fix up the missing preparations that were sitting soundly in Ethan’s e-mail inbox. No matter - we were early, the sun was shining, and it was the first day of adulthood for Ethan.
Over the course of the next couple of days, Ethan became a college student and we became a family of four regulars rather than five (not counting the dog). Regis University does a nice job including the families in this helicopter inspired generation of folk. Jenny and I were pleased with many of our decisions as we observed other parents “over-parenting” their now adults into college.
Of course, there is the idea of “fouling the nest” that still rings true. Ethan did it, but to a certain degree, the four of us did it to Ethan. We took Quin and Mireille out of school and I took Friday off of work to hang out on the north-east corner of Denver with my new adult and his kin. During that time, on several occasions, Ethan was given ample excuse to flee the nest…
The college planners had separate tracks for young and old adults, and we complied. Towards the end of the day our paths converged in the most Catholic of ways, at the Church. At 4:30 on Friday was the unofficial “separation” ceremony, which started with a Catholic Mass, which we attended. After mass, Ethan went to his dorm-room to freshen up, while the rest of us stayed for the student blessing.
Father John Fitzgibbons officiated the mass, but also the non-denominational blessing afterwards, which was designed as a separation ceremony - it was designed to make people cry. It succeeded.
It was short. It was succinct. And though Ethan wasn’t there, both Jenny and I teared up at the premise and message of the event. It featured a Kahlil Gibran stanza that I’ve not heard, but it rendered me helpless to the longing memories of the past, and the future that only includes Ethan at a cursory level… Our little boy has flown the nest.
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.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.