by David Perkins
It comes to pass, in every parent’s life, that a child will begin preparations to leave home. Some will be off to college, some will go to the military or other national service, and many will just strike out to seek their fortunes in whatever field has captured their imagination.
It’s at this moment, when the preparation begins, that most parents will realize that all those heart-to-heart talks they always intended to have with their offspring somehow never took place. Or, at the very least, that many of them managed to slip through the cracks. I blame basketball, but that’s my cop-out.
It was in this environment, of not-quite-panic, that I sat down at my computer to make up for missed opportunities. I had no idea what I was going to say to my son, but I knew I had to say something.
The eventual letter, which follows, came as something of a surprise to me. Not right away, but later, as I’ll explain. And the chance sharing of this letter with a friend, at a similar place in life, resulted in me being encouraged to share it with others. Thank you, Lia. I hope you were right.
After installing my son in his college dorm, and leaving the letter with him, my wife and I spent a very quiet five hours driving back home. I guess we were both lost in our own thoughts about the past, the future, and the somewhat less than action-packed present. When we arrived home, I went to my office and read the letter again, to myself. Several times, I confess. This is when I had my epiphany. I’ve never had one before, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it was.
I concluded that my subconscious had tricked me into writing what I believed were things my son needed to hear; about me, about life, and about his future. And while I still hope that he may find something of value in it, I came to realize that I had actually written things that I needed to know; about him, about his life, and about our relationship. I was writing to me, as much as to him. Not all of it, of course, but just enough to reassure myself that he would be alright.
This awareness allowed me to suddenly let go of some of the sadness about his leaving, and to replace it with some of the hope and excitement that he must be feeling now. It is in this spirit, and with my son’s permission, that I share this letter with any parent who has lost, or will lose, a child to higher education, or military service, or to the most dreaded thief of all, adulthood.
Dear Austin –
I’ve been thinking about this letter for weeks now, and I still don’t really know what I’m going to write. I know there are things I need to say to you, things I want you to know, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what should come first. So, forgive me for rambling.
It’s difficult to watch you get ready to leave home. You have been nothing but a source of pride for your mother and me for your entire life, and we’re delighted to see you begin the next chapter, and move on to bigger and better and more exciting things. Life is really just beginning for you, and it’s exhilarating, and frightening, and promising all at once. But it’s hard, too. For us.
Even though you’re not leaving home for good, and you’ll still be here a lot over the next few years, it will be different. You really are a young man now, and our relationship with you will never be the same. That’s okay. It’s not supposed to be the same. But, for your mom and me, it will be a bittersweet transition.
Pardon the Interruption –
I apologize for the now truncated version of this article, which used to be here in its entirety. But since the publication of the paperback and digital editions of Dear Austin – A Letter To My Son, I have been politely advised by the publisher that, from a commercial standpoint, leaving the content of the book posted here is unacceptable.
If you’d like to learn more about the book, you will find complete information at DavidMPerkins.com and the paperback edition available to order at Amazon.com. Thank you for your understanding, and for all the support and encouragement this letter has generated over the past several months.