My brother was ready to graduate from college. I was married and had my own life and career. While we still communicated with Dad often, usually by e-mail, the relationship with our Dad had changed dramatically. No longer was he the constant presence in our lives of advice and reason. His voice of wisdom came only in bursts from time to time when something larger came to a head. And even in those moments I noticed something more like peer-advice from him. His comments were always laced with a pride in “how we turned out” and they made me think that he considered his job as a Dad done. He had raised us, and more or less he had done a good job. Now he spent a lot more effort on his work and his personal interests and hobbies. I even noticed that he talked about himself a lot more—our conversations often revolved around his life changes more often than mine.
This was a very big change to become accustomed to at first. Dad wasn’t much acting like Dad anymore. As most kids do, I distanced myself from my parents a bit in my teen years, seeking to be an individual and find out my own way in life. In this process I didn’t rebel against my Dad, but I certainly didn’t go seeking him out all the time. Now that I reached my early twenties I found him doing a similar thing to me. It was like he had resigned the daily task of fathering and sent me on my way. Dropped like a juvenile bird out of the nest.
The Right Time to Reconnect
Of course this was perfectly natural and actually already started by my own distancing. It did, however, make me begin to think about that relationship. Who would be my mentors now? Who would I go to for advice? Who would fill that role in my life now?
Then Dad e-mailed my brother and me and informed us that we’d now be taking Father-Son trips every other year together. He’d foot the entire bill—travel, food, hotels, rental car, etc. Whatever we did would be his treat. My brother and I agreed without thinking about it long. And so began our Drury tradition of a Father-Sons trip every other year. We would do things such as canoe a portion of the Swanee River together, or scale Ben-Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles, and bum around Austria together. During these trips Dad started to treat my brother and I like something completely new: fully-grown men and his peers. He knew that Being Dad on purpose means letting go of his kids at the right time, and then reconnecting with them at the right time too.
A Best Friend
And so we became like best friends instead of just Dad and Son. Because of his effort to re-connect with us as peers after our time of independence we became friends. Now I don’t feel the need to run to Daddy with every problem I’ve got—even though he is still one of my mentors and advisors along the way. Instead I call him up like I’d call up many of my friends. We joke and converse like pals. Without any words at all he gave me the sense that I was on my own and I could handle it. I was a man—not just a young man—a full-fledged adult man. In many ways it was the first feeling of arrival in my life. It wasn’t about a process he was working in me anymore. I had arrived as a man and his peer at last.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- What part of letting your kids go is hard for you?
- What moments of “letting go” along the way as kids are younger are “training” for when they finally move out or get married?
- Did your father ever re-connect with you in a new way as you became an adult? If not how do you wish he would have? If so, how did he make that happen?
- What will be most difficult about re-connecting with your kids as they become adults? What part are you looking forward to?