“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
So said Einstein. Perhaps, if he were the father of triplets (like me) helping them move to college, he’d have seen things differently.
With triplets, every first comes in threes. Dropping them all off for their freshman year certainly feels like everything is happening at once.
From season to season, reactions to our three-pack became pretty familiar. When they were babies, tucked into their impressive stroller, we expected the same set of curious (and personal) questions from strangers out in public. With few exceptions, their parting words were, “You sure have your hands full.” Now we hear, “Your house is sure going to be quiet.” You can say that again, and again.
It’s easy for parents to get drawn into a harbor of regret when suddenly realizing for themselves how “the days are long and the years are short.” Here are three reminders for parents in a season when everything seems to be happening at once.
Life comes in clumps
An article by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post gave me some advanced warning about the college transition. He says, The emotions…are an odd mix: part pride, part resignation, part self-pity, even a bit of something that feels like grief. By accident or on purpose, he finally lands on the right word.
But it is an odd mix, and that’s often how life presents itself to us—in clumps of highs and lows together. Sometimes we get stuck waiting for pain to clear in order to get back to pleasure. But the chaff of suffering can butt up against the fruit of deep joy. We must receive life as it comes to us, in clumps.
More is caught than taught
I hear people say from time to time they have no regrets. I don’t have that gift of selective memory. Nor does author John Ortberg who is very transparent about his regret:
“…as they sleep at night, I think of the kind of father I want to be. I want to create moments of magic, I want them to remember laughing until the tears flow…. Then I remember how the day really went: I remember how they were trapped in a fight over checkers and I walked out of the room because I didn’t want to spend the energy needed to teach them how to resolve conflict.”
I’ve come to realize, partly from admitting these same kinds of failures, where real power lies. It’s over ourselves. Parents waste a lot of energy chipping away at behaviors and habits without considering themselves a work in progress. The most profound influence we can have on others is to keeping growing ourselves. Far more is caught than taught.
There’s always a what’s next
A line from the last Indiana Jones movie has stuck with me. Indiana has been reunited with his father after many years apart. He laments about his father’s lack of attention growing up, to which his dad replies, “You left home just when you were getting interesting.”
Gerson admits in his column that his own son leaving home is “the worst thing time has done to me so far.” Like him, I’m putting on my best face about it. But I also know more interesting times lie ahead. Our triplets’ lives are just getting started. For us as parents, I suspect it’s one of those stages when the old must come down so that new may be built. But yes, it’s something like grief.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)