Ever catch yourself day-dreaming about how glorious life will be after your kids grow-up and move out of the house? Ever imagine yourself alone at home with your partner- having uninterrupted conversations, time to pursue your own interests, and sex whenever you feel like it?
Well- I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but…
Parenting never ends. Not even when they move out of the house for good.
And the craziest part is – that can be a good thing.
Case in point:
It’s last week. My wife and I, both tired, are finishing a show on Netflix. It’s about 10:30pm.
As we start heading to bed, my phone lights up. It’s Ally. She’s our youngest; 23 years old, living on her own, and working as a nurse about 90 minutes drive from home (our home at least). I’m surprised she’s calling so late but am excited too, so I slide my finger across the iPhone and answer.
I know right away something is wrong. Not terribly wrong. Nothing involving police or ambulances, but her tone gives it away. My wife and I brace ourselves, and ask her what’s up.
Turns out, the 14 hour nursing shift she just finished was one of the most trying and exhausting of her young career. That wasn’t the problem though. Wanting to keep her exercise routine intact, Ally went to the gym right after leaving the hospital.
Still good, right?
But, when she got out of the car and headed inside to the treadmills, she locked her keys in the car.
We have the extra key. Ninety minutes away. At our house. (Why we have the spare is another story)
Knowing that I have a flexible work schedule, Ally asks me if I would, by any chance, like to come visit her tomorrow, bringing the extra key. She plans to take an Uber to her apartment after the workout, hoping I could deliver the next day.
But as Murphy’s Law would have it, I’m booked solid the next day. My wife is a school teacher so she isn’t available either.
“That’s ok.” Ally says. “I’ll just take Uber back and forth to work until you guys come down on Saturday.” We had a visit planned for then.
“Hold on.” I say, “What if I bring the key down right now? It sure beats racking up $200 in Uber fees.”
I tell Ally to go workout, and that I’ll arrive at the gym about the same time she finishes up.
“My delivery fee is a bottle of soda and some snacks so I can stay awake driving home.” I say.
Ally accepts, I grab the key and head out.
It was 10:30pm. I was heading to bed before Ally called.
Did I really want to do this?
The funny thing is- yes, I actually did.
It’s ironic that, when our kids are young and need us constantly, we may sometimes wish that they wouldn’t. But later, when they don’t need us as much, it feels good to be needed, and even better to be helpful.
So I drove 90 minutes to the gym. I met Ally, who showed her appreciation by buying me a full meal plus snacks at the 24/7 convenience store. We sat there in the parked car and talked for 2 hours. It was a beautiful visit!
I left after 2am, getting home closer to 4am. My lack of sleep that night was totally worth being able to help my daughter out of a jam. I would do it again, although I hope the chance doesn’t come too soon.
So the next time you’re day-dreaming about life after kids, remember this: a parent’s job never fully ends, and thank goodness for that!
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