What's a good term for my situation?

Existential crisis? Nah, too dramatic.

It could be more of a midlife malaise, only that would imply I'll live to be 104, which would be fantastic. Problem is, if I'm currently peeing every morning in five languid installments, by the century mark I'll need a tasteful prostate pram to wheel around that leathery gland that partially popped free of my body in 2038.

No, I'll just assess this situation using a system to which we grew accustomed back in the Bush years—Irrelevance Alert Level Orange, or more formally defined as "a high risk of becoming paternally insignificant."

When I started keeping this journal six years ago, my children were ages fourteen and nine. I was fully immersed in nuclear family Americana, rarely poking my head through the surface in an ocean of macaroni, cheese and hot dog pennies.

Year after year, the fatherly importance threat level hovered at its lowest stage—Green—and only occasionally would it elevate to Level Blue, or "guarded." This slightly higher risk of irrelevance occurred only when one of my daughters did something unusually independent, like replacing toilet paper.

I coached soccer, I went on field trips; Costco wasn't a place to hit up real quick for a few odds and ends, it was a destination rivaling only the IKEA ball pit in kid curb appeal. Nearly every visit, after watching my grubby cherubs stuff their rosy cheeks with enough fro-yo to illicit unfettered shivering, I'd wrap them in their pink or purple jackets as we cruised the aisles looking for enough Gogurt and Goldfish to make it through another week.

My younger daughter was a bubbling aquifer of verbal treasures:

"I'm sorry. I just feel fragile today."

"When can I drink coffee? I want to try a crappuccino."

"You don't know how I feel! You're not inside my heart!"

Sure, life had its routines back when I started writing this weblog, but with kids in the house, the mundane could explode into the insane in the blink of a pink eye. Ever had someone vomit in your slipper...while it's still on your foot? Ever pulled a Barbie out of your coat pocket on the bus and wondered if you should try to explain it to the lady next to you?

Anyway, I think you get my point. I'm obviously still a dad who does a lot of dad stuff, but now I'm more the key grip than the director. During those days of high energy and overwhelming fatigue, I yearned for a future that allowed for a bit more breathing room. It happened. And with it came an abundance of time, and a heightened fear of irrelevance.

The Mayo Clinic defines empty nest syndrome as "parental feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home." I disagree, since it's still another three years until my younger daughter goes to college.

I'm feeling it now, maybe not as severely as I will, yet still I never could have imagined the meaty chunk of my personal identity that's permanently and irrevocably embedded in my dad self. And currently, while it does make me sad, this is not yet the time to step aside.

After all, while the nest may be half empty, it's also half full.

Views: 98

Comment by JMac1949 Today on July 27, 2015 at 4:18pm

"...an abundance of time, and a heightened fear of irrelevance..." Know that feeling.  BTW: It gets worse when you retire. Follow your bliss either take up dry fly fishing or building ships in bottles.  R&L ;-D

Comment by Reflections of a Shallow Pond on July 27, 2015 at 4:30pm

Yep, that's why I'm trying to get into this writing thing! :)

Comment by marilyn sands on July 27, 2015 at 4:49pm

Sweet & funny at the same time - the best is yet to come!

Comment by Zanelle on July 27, 2015 at 7:35pm

It is not how old you are when they leave the nest...it is how old you are when they come back.  I came back the last thirteen years of my moms life and it was the right thing to do.  My two daughters are flying free but not sure for how long and home is always a nice place to have close by.  That is a great picture of those two.  Thanks for writing.

Comment by koshersalaami on July 27, 2015 at 8:32pm
Well written
Comment by Myriad on July 28, 2015 at 8:24am

Very nice.  But aren't kids' teenage years a time of constant vigilance?  I lost a lot of sleep waiting for them to get the hell home...

"crappuccino" - nice.  I'll remember that one for a while.

(Yeah Z - great photo.)

Comment by Reflections of a Shallow Pond on July 28, 2015 at 8:33am

Myriad, yeah, it's not over by a long shot. Is it ever?

Comment by Myriad on July 28, 2015 at 11:07am

Haha - my kids are nearing retirement age, and I'm still fretting - and pretty much looking after one of them.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on April 6, 2016 at 6:38am

My son is in the same boat.  My granddaughters are 18 and 16 and life is not smooth, although it's not particularly rough.  It's just that girls are not easy peasy.  I feel for him and you, because they're smart and very social and they'll have their way because thats how they're/we're wired.  We build the nests.  And it takes strength to do that.  

My guess is, they're going to be fine.  A caring involved and respected dad is so important to women growing up.  And you seem to be that.  Lovely post and great picture!

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