Another Parenting Passage 717.3

Have you seen the Subaru commercial where a father is giving a safety talk to his six-year-old sitting in the driver’s seat?*

In that exasperated tone I’ve heard a thousand times, the little girl says, “Daddy, it’s okay.” Then, as dad hands his daughter the key with a final warning to drive carefully, she is replaced by a 16-year-old.

I’m sure I’m not the only dad to choke up at this metaphor for the transformation from daddy’s little girl to a young woman ready to be on her own.

The message hits home because I’m at this moment in New York, going through another traumatic parenting passage. I’m here visiting the college my daughter Samara will be attending in a few months, facing the undeniable fact that this is the beginning of profound transition in my relationship with her.

The baby I burped and carried just yesterday will soon live 3,000 miles away, relishing every moment of unsupervised freedom.

I’m not surprised. At her age I was equally anxious to be free of parental oversight and judgment. Even though I knew my parents’ unsolicited advice and sincere concern were motivated by love, I found their efforts annoying.

I don’t have to like it, but if I hope to retain significance, I think I’d better accept my changing role as a dad and the fact that my maturing children are not just bigger and smarter versions of the babies they once were; they are truly very different people, who need their parents in different ways and at random times of their choosing.

That leaves me asking for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” (from Rhienhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”).

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

* In researching this comment, I found out that not only are the girls in the commercial actually sisters, the guy is actually their father. Once the folks preparing the ad saw the interaction of real dad to real daughters, they let him ad lib – that’s why it’s so natural.

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