Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I have heard parents of young children speak wistfully of the time when their children are grown, when their home is not filled with the patter of little feet, when they will finally, at last, have some time to themselves, time to travel, time to sit alone in the evening over a leisurely dinner without a child doing a balancing act on the back two legs of a chair, or filling his mouth with mashed potatoes and displaying the drooling mass to his brother or sister.

Oh, yes, those Glory Days are ahead, they think, the day when they will be able to rekindle romance in their lives, be able to light the candles and listen to their favorite songs, actual music, instead of the thumping, screaming, ear-shattering sounds of the young generation. They can be adults again, then, not workaholics, bringing home the bacon to the young.

What fools they are, these parents who think that time will come, for the reality it is, that Valhalla, that Eden, that elixir of the drunken and foolish, is a fantasy, a dream, a time that seldom, if ever, arrives.

You see, when that moment comes, when that young man or woman moves out of your home into the world, there is always that pang of regret, those tears of sorrow. Your heart breaks at the sight of this enthusiastic young face, your darling, walking out amidst the trials and dangers of the world to start a new life, be it college or a job or whatever. It is like watching him or her walk across the top of a cliff and tumble into the abyss.

There is a great flurry of preparation. Parents always strip their own home of supplies to assure the fledgling that his or her nest is properly feathered. Towels, sheets, appliances, blankets, furniture....it is all located and hauled away. Sometimes it involves shopping trips, to make sure the sheets match the pillowcases and that there is a proper supply of paper towels, etc.

These innocent and well-meaning parents do not realize the bitter truth about this family upheaval. They are lost in conflicting emotions, from relief that this day has finally come, to sorrow that their cherished sweetheart is leaving the nest.

The truth is, folks, no need for any emotion. The reality is.....they will return!

Like MacArthur returning to the Pacific islands, these children will be back! They will return to the loving arms of their parents, who will have no recourse other than to welcome them.

And, when they come back, they will not only have a load of furniture and supplies, but will be encumbered with their dogs, their cats, their birds, their blaring music, their dirty laundry, and...in extreme cases...their mates and infants.

Sometimes these farewells and returns take place several times before, at about age forty or thereafter, the children finally find their slot in life and settle to handle their own problems. Even then, they like to move to a close location, to assure babysitting availability. By this time, of course, parents have become so enamored of the grandchildren they consider it a privilege to help raise them. This is a deliberate situation planned and carried out by the young parents, a crafty move that forces doting grandparents to put off that planned trip to Europe or that move to Bora Bora.

At some time during those tumultous years, parents cease being Mom and Dad, and become a handy, favored Savings and Loan Association. Mom and Dad have the Savings and the kids need the Loans. The problem is, repayment is a long time in coming, possibly when the parent is a drooling wreck in a Nursing Home and the offspring provides a fresh box of Kleenex.

They are adept at "borrowing." "Hey, Dad, can I borrow your tent for Poopsie and I to go camping?" Of course, Dad loans his tent, since he would feel cheap and miserable if he refused. Well, say Farewell to that tent. It will either disappear into the youthful Limbo of lost items, a gigantic pile of Cargo located somewhere and consisting of items young people borrow from parents, or it will come home with a huge rent in its canvas side, missing tent pegs and no poles.

I speak from experience. I have a screen tent now residing somewhere in Pennsylvania, left behind and forgotten in the van of a youthful traveler now residing there. Our tools are scattered across the world and may even be the cause of the rise of China to prosperity, and our money....oh, well, you can get the picture.

Of course, as a parent, you must feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for allowing this situation. The burden of parental guilt is greater than the National Debt, weighing down the shoulders of all people who bear young. Only animals have sense enough to kick their young out of their lives at a very early age. Once that bird learns to fly, it's goodbye and good luck! But humans do not have this kind of smarts. Thus, they have to feel guilty for years and years to come. It's mandatory.

If you do not believe me, ask your child. He will not be overburdened with gratitude over the years of sacrifice you have given him. Instead, he will remember the few times you ran out of money and refused to stop at McDonald's for a meal, or consider himself abused for the fact that he and his brother had to share a room. Believe me, he will be only too happy to point out your faults, because if he doesn't, you might call in the loans. By keeping you on the defensive, he feels he is home safe, and he usually is.

It's a great experience, parenthood, and it is truthfully a rewarding part of life. What would we do without our kids? What empty, meaningless things would our lives encompass without those treasured offspring?

Could it be things like traveling to foreign lands, seeing the vast and wonderful world, enjoying luxurious dinners in the finest restaurants, having long conversations over a meal with learned and interesting friends, driving a Porsche, owning a yacht, dressing in new and fabulous clothes, buying on impulse now and then, perhaps a fancy pair of hand-stitched shoes or a fabulous piece of jewelry?

Who would want things like that? What fool would trade those vacant pleasures for the delights of diaper-changing? What silly person would want to miss the vengeful delight of seeing their children go through the same rigors as the grandchildren grow up? It's the only revenge we are allowed, and it is frequently bittersweet.