Remember the movie “Failure to Launch?” I’ve watched it several times. I almost lived it.
My children did not go away for college. My two sons commuted from home and my daughter came home every weekend. After graduation, they all came home – to roost – for longer than I want to admit. If you go to Google Earth and visit my home, our driveway looks like a New York City parking garage.
You can imagine my confliction when my two youngest were ready to move out. They were 24 and 25 and we had long been (or been too long) the “Leave It To Beaver” family. The first two weeks after my first one left was hard. I’ll admit I had tears in my eyes. A few weeks later my middle child got married. Now there was only one to launch. (Still working on that. Please, I do have a dowry for her if you are interested).
Everyone told me it would be wonderful when they leave. “The house is clean; there is still food in the refrigerator. You’ll enjoy it.” I also knew in my heart of hearts part of a parent’s role is to build your values into your children and then launch them into the world. My job was to share with them my heart, my values and my faith.
Let me tell you how wonderful it is. After entering this season of my life, I saw something I thought was impossible. I used to be able to tell what my son had for breakfast. The cereal box was left on the island, the pot was left on the stove and the dirty bowl hadn’t quite made it to the dishwasher. That all changed. I came downstairs and the island was as spotless as it was when I went to bed. The cereal box was not only in the pantry, but there was still cereal in it. Then I opened the refrigerator to get some orange juice. There it was, the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. It was a container of orange juice. The next morning, it was there still waiting for me. The following morning, it was still full. I got to Thursday and there was still orange juice in the refrigerator.
This was going to be good.
A few weeks later, I felt like the couple in the Venza commercial. My wife and I went away for a few days. We didn’t tell anyone where we were going and were beyond cell phone reception. It was wonderful. No one knew where we were or how to get in touch with us.
There is a Scripture verse that says, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.” Arrows were never designed to sit in the quiver. They were built to launch from the bow into the world. That’s what we should do as parents.
Do I love my kids? Absolutely, yes. At this stage of my life and their life, it’s important that I transition our relationship from parent-child to adult-adult. I will always be their father; they will always be my children. But my role is to help launch them into the world.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friends.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. The Charlotte Rescue Mission provides a free long-term Christian recovery program for men and women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.