The dawning of the empty next syndrome has finally come upon our family. Our first-born is about to try out his wings in a few days at a big college campus. Is he going to make it?
The best way to share my concern with you is to let you in one some of the things my son and I talked about recently. Several days ago, I took him out for a man-to-man talk. We were cruising aimlessly in our small town buying time for our conversation.
While Patrick was driving slowly and deliberately, he listened intently to what I had to say.
With due respect to the privacy of my adult son, I cannot share everything discussed. But I would like to share you with the topics we covered as a reflection of what I think is important for a young man to consider when he leaves home for college.
We discussed the choice of a local church. He will look into the only Chinese church in town as well as another evangelical church which one of his friends is currently attending.
We went over the three possible Christian groups he could join: Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and an Asian group. Any one of those groups sounded good to us.
Daily devotions. I share with him about its importance and was happy to know that he already had some plans for that.
I was surprised that the issue of friendship was his first item of concern when I asked him about his thoughts of going to college.
“Where are you going to find your friends?” He said, “The safest place, I think, is in a Christian group.”
“I think you are right,” I responded and happily agreeing with him. After feeling a little uneasy about my safety-first mentality, I asked him, “You don’t mean you only want to make friends with Christians, do you?
“No,” I felt both relieved and proud.
We did not talk about money that evening. We had opened up an account for him in his name and placed in it sufficient funds for the year. We also set up his account in such a way that, if necessary we could transfer fund to his account through our Versatel cards. We trust him to pay the bills as they are due. As for his own allowance, the amount he needs for his own personal wants, I asked him to come up with a figure for his parents to consider. I am still waiting for his answer.
The Three No-nos
Then we talked about the three issues which are of concern to most Christian parents: alcohol/drugs, sex and gambling.
I chose not to use the method of you-should-not because he already knew that. Instead we talked about each issue and his own convictions about each. I was happy that my son leveled with me. He was honest. He was realistic. He did not promise more than he should. I was happy and proud.
We were driving for about an hour. The conversation was serious but punctured with occasional laughter and humor. At one point, he handed me his digital watch and wanted me to time how long it took him to go from 0 to 60mph. It was 12.9 seconds. He shook his head and said, “bad.” Then we drove some more and talked some more. Finally, I asked him to head home.
My son will be physically out of my control in a few short days. My wife and I have tried our best to instill in him what we think are Christian values and principles. We have tried to follow Christ at best we could. We have prayed for him and with him. We enjoyed the time we spent with him. We have done what we could, failure included. We are at peace with God and with each other.
What our son’s future holds is known only to God. God loves him much more than we do. God cares about him more perfectly than we do. God can teach him more effectively than we can. We believe our son will be in better care away from home than he was at home. We believe he will learn to trust and love God more when he is away.
I thank God for my son. The memory of these past eighteen years will be forever with me and I am a better person because of it.