A few weeks ago, my daughter, Tenacious, started going to daycare. For a little over two years now, my wife and I have been able to tag-team coverage. Granted we’ve had some obvious help from the extended family along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself incredibly lucky that we’ve been able to do that. It hasn’t always been easy, but it got done. And I’m fairly certain that parenting never gets easy anyway.
However, as I drop T-Bone off with her teachers and “soon to be” friends every Tuesday and Thursday, I can’t help but reflect on the similarities with my job. Parents are always faced with so many questions that are impossible to answer. Are these the right kids for mine to be around? Will these teachers “get her” the way my wife and I do? Who will she become? Will she have fun? And many, many more that swirl around in your head as you see your child walk off to a new challenge.
And then I realized, it probably doesn’t ever change? I’ll feel this same way in kindergarten (as I do with Echo this year). I’ll feel this way in 5th grade, and high school, and…college. Then I realize, I’m the same as any other daycare provider. (Apologies to my athletes. I know you’re not infants, but the comparison is applicable from a parent’s perspective.)
It’s interesting, at 8:55am, I’m the nervous parent dropping of his daughter, entrusting her with a few people I superficially know. Then at 9:05, I’m on the other side of this equation. I’m the one who is being gifted with someone else’s greatest love. With someone’s baby.
Sure their 18-year-old men, but I’m still tasked with the job of motivating, challenging, and socializing them. Ultimately, I’m the sounding board helping them explore the world, find a purpose, and generally live a happy and fulfilled life. This is a charge that I have taken very seriously over the past decade and a half and one that I will continue to do so.
And this isn’t a mind-blowing epiphany by any standards. I know that. But it did help me empathize with the parents that sit in my office talking about Williams, the team, or myself. The ones doing “the search”. Not the search for a college, but the one for the right people with which to surround their children. I’ve never experienced this directly. I’ve never sent a child off to college. But I have had to trust a stranger to guide my children – to help them navigate their path and process their successes and failures.
I doubt this act will ever get easy. Trust of this magnitude can’t be given out easily. No one just walks down the street and hands the keys to their car to a total stranger and says “Hey, can you hold these for a few hours, I need to go to work.” It just doesn’t happen. And let’s be honest, giving someone the keys to your car is small peanuts compared to asking them to mentor your child.
This past week, as I walk through campus, I see the same nervous excitement and tentative steps in these first years as I see in my daughter every Tuesday. But I can now empathize with the uneasy hope that also exists in their parents’ hearts. The powerlessness that comes with letting your children experience the world for themselves. And I truly know that there is nothing that I can do to quench that nervousness in a mother or father’s gut. But I can tell them that I love my job and, from one parent to another, I know how you feel.