A Difficult Conversation with My Daughter
My oldest daughter, Julia, decided it was time for the talk. I'm sure she had to work herself up to doing it. It is never an easy talk to have with your dad. But she is the oldest, and she is not one to shy away from responsibilities or difficult situations. She always steps in. And now, she was about to do it again.
“Dad, we need to talk," she said while we were sitting at the pool.
Her two boys were playing in the pool. Her husband, Zack, was sitting to her left. And my wife, Kathy, was sitting to her right. I was sitting in a chair facing all of them.
She said, "You did a good job as a dad. All four of your kids are doing well. Three of us are married. We are all independent. We have good jobs with good incomes. We don't need you to take care of us anymore."
And then she said, "Do what brings you joy."
I remember having this talk with my father-in-law.
We were standing on the first tee at his country club in Denver. He had recently sold his business. He was fifty-three. He told me, "I am going to retire. I just want to make sure I don't run out of money before Sue and I die."
I said, "There is no way you will run out of money given your lifestyle and spending habits. There is just no way."
I could see in his eyes he wasn't convinced.
Then I said, "It is only you and Sue. All three of your girls are doing well. They are married with kids and all independent. You and Sue need to use this time to enjoy yourselves. We don't need your money. It is all yours to do with as you please."
When I told Ray this, I did not realize the significance of the conversation. I didn't realize it until the day Julia had the conversation with me.
I spent most of my adult life providing for my family. I worked hard and tried to make good financial choices and be responsible with the money I earned. I wanted my kids to have opportunities to grow up in a safe neighborhood with nice amenities. A neighborhood with good neighbors who were trying hard to be good moms and dads just like us.
I wanted to give my kids opportunities to go to schools that encouraged learning and good values so they might have opportunities to experience great teachers, sports, and a healthy social life to prepare them for life. And then, eventually, they would go to the college of their choice and launch a career of their choice.
That's what I wanted to provide as a dad.
And then, sitting at the pool listening to my daughter, I realized I did it. It's over. It's completed. My job, dad as the provider, is over. Mission accomplished. I'm not needed anymore after thirty years "on the job."
Julia told me that day to go off with Kathy and focus on us in this next phase of our lives. My oldest daughter was calling an end to a big phase of my life. The old is gone, and the new has come. "Embrace it" was the message. “Move on.”
This was my official transition from dad to father. From being in charge and responsible for my children to being an observer who is available for advice and support when they might call on me.
This is big.
A huge piece of my purpose was laid aside. No longer needed. I've come full circle. It started with Kathy and me, and now it is back to Kathy and me. Not only do I recognize this change, but now I know my children see it too.
And this is what hit me so hard.
My kids appreciate all I've done as a father. They've moved from needing me to being independent. And now I am moving from being independent to one day in the future needing them to help Kathy and me. The circle of life. That point in time when we are not there for them. They are there for us.
I guess it is time to do what brings us joy, as Julia so advised.
And the answer is still, my children. I'm so proud of them and the men and women of God they've become. The men and women they’ve married. The beautiful children they produced and share with us as the greatest gift of all in life. This is my joy. This is our joy.