Beyond The Parenting Playbook

beyond the parenting playbookThe second biggest day of my life was this past Friday when my daughter Annie graduated from college. It was a beautiful thing to witness but I am now left wondering, “What is next?” as I realize that I am officially beyond the parenting playbook.

As a parent and as a person in general the greatest day of my life was when my daughter was born. Having a kid changes everything, as it is no longer all about you as you have a precious life that you are now responsible for 24×7 to nurture and raise.

No other option or scenario was every seriously considered. Annie would grow up, do well in school, and ultimately attend college and graduate. From day one, THAT was the plan. That said, the focus on the past 17 years, from the day she started kindergarten, until she marched in the graduation ceremony this past Friday has been to keep her going and advancing from one year to the next.

Beyond The Parenting Playbook

The weekend, seeing her, seeing family, and celebrating her achievement was nothing short of amazing. It was an extremely emotional affair with many more highs than lows but completely draining when it was all said and done.

As her father… as her Dad, I have had plenty of “proud moments” when it comes to Annie and her life and how well she has done, but her college graduation is definitely the pinnacle… at least for now.

But after her graduation and Melissa and I returned to the hotel, I had a nagging feeling, an unanswered and overhanging question of “What is next?” As a parent, what do I do now? What is my job now? What does that look like? With the primary mission as I saw it being completed… am I still needed? Am I still relevant?

For the first time in this amazing person’s life that I had been part of for nearly 22 years, I was lost and without a clue as to what do next. I was beyond the parenting playbook or at least the version that I had been issued.

Fortunately, Friday night after her graduation I was so exhausted from the long day that going to sleep was not difficult to do lest I spend the night mulling over the many questions listed above while not coming up with any answers.

But when I awoke on Saturday morning, my first impulse was to call my daughter and check in to make sure she was “okay” as I knew she would be visiting with other friends the night before, going to parties, and what not. Still being the parent, just wanting to know she was safe…

So that is what I did… at 7:20 in the morning I called her and she answered on the second ring. I told her that I was just calling to make sure that she had made it home in one piece and was safe from the night before. Of course, she was fine… and of course, I was relieved… and after we talked, it was when I received the answers to the questions I had been asking of myself…

Nothing changed… and really, nothing changes… I am still her dad, she is still my daughter, and knowing that she is well is still (and I guess always will be) my greatest concern. One story and a very big story at that, spanning nearly 22 years has ended. But that is the way of life, as stories must end in order for other new and greater stories to begin.

So I do still feel a little uneasy and a little unsettled as I sit back and witness what is to happen next. It is very reminiscent of when I taught Annie to ride a bicycle… holding onto the bike while she would be pedaling then ever so slightly and gradually completely letting go of the bike and watching her maybe somewhat awkwardly control the bike while staying upright on her own… That anxiety and apprehension of letting her go to ride on her own in the direction of her choosing… It’s like that but maybe multiplied by a million or so…

So, yes… I am beyond the parenting playbook for now and I may always be as that story is over… My daughter’s life is going to permanently different now and because of that mine as her father will be as well. Things have changed but the core of it all will always be same and I assume that is the same for all parents… because even though you are beyond the parenting playbook as you might understand it… you always love your children, you always want the best for your children, you want you children to be happy, and regardless of geographical distance… you are always there for you children no matter what.

That never changes.

As for Annie… She is off on her own adventure now as she also has her own questions about “What is next?”

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – A Certified Life Coach In Aspen Colorado

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Photo by Dr. B.P. Shockey 13 May 2016

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