As any parent will tell you, time “goes so fast” and to take stock in every little moment.
Truer words were never spoken.
My oldest daughter Abbi (who some of you might remember from her own Life Lessons here on GEM), graduated high school and is about to head to college. The tiny little girl, the one who used to act like she was in college as a toddler, holding her mother’s Organic Chemistry book, is about to enter that college world herself. Time slipped by, much too quickly, and the little girl turned into a beautiful and intelligent woman, seemingly in-between my blinking away glassy tears.
College brought far more frustration when I became a suddenly single-parent, two years ago.
That change in our lives started with the loss of my wife, Andrea, after eighteen years of marriage. In a matter of weeks I lost my wife and then my home. In a few more, I changed jobs. That equates to the loss of a second income, a massive and intense ding on my already struggling credit and then a lack of tenure at a new job. To be fair, the bank looked at me and my situation logically, told me with all sincerity they didn’t think I could make the payments on my home and they were right. It was a mutual agreement at that point, one I had no choice but to make.
The unfortunate part of this is my oldest daughter has to face the consequences of some of these decisions. Her mother liked to spend money and didn’t like to budget the consequences of that. One of the positives of the last two years has been we don’t face that any more. We ended up even: not broke, not flush, but able to eat, have a rental home, pay the bills, all that. But unfortunately, in applying for school loans she was denied. Her father’s credit is shot for eight years. That’s just reality.
My lesson to you is twofold: your actions as a parent, whether you think about them or not, have consequences for your kids. I don’t pretend I’d make other decisions in the last two years because I wouldn’t. The criticisms I’ve received for allowing foreclosure on my home, have no impact on me. I had no choice. But I had choices long before that. We could have bought a more affordable home. I could have then sold it and just had bad credit, not horrible credit. I could have saved more money. I could have double-checked my life insurance so Andrea really was covered. That way I wouldn’t have exhausted all my savings in the expense of death. Yet all those thoughts are hindsight; the last two years have shown me I have to keep looking forward.
The bright side to that is the fact my daughter has seen the mistakes and vowed to avoid them. “Tomorrow” never comes, you think, until it does, like an anvil on the head.
That anvil contains bedding, books, laundry baskets, meal plans, dorm room costs, a computer (and every school says you have to have one), even clothes since Abbi’s going somewhere far more chilly than California.
But we did it. Abbi’s school helped me try to apply for a parent loan, knowing full well we’d get a denial…knowing that we’d get another few thousand for Abbi out of that. We also took full advantage of federal loans we were allowed.
Our tight belts will be a little tighter, our Christmas tree might be a little smaller with a lot fewer things underneath. The reality is, though, we’ve learned some big lessons, not the least of which is the fact that we are getting along better than we were two years ago. It’s a hard lesson to learn what you did wrong as a couple and then try to get it right alone. But we’re making it work, the best way we can.
In college, Abbi will reach the age I was when I met her mother. It’s exciting and freaking me out at the same time but I also know, after the last two years, she’s learned far more than I did at her age. That’s encouraging. And though I don’t feel old enough to have a kid in college, she’ll always be my little girl.
What about you? Have you checked your insurance, started saving, looked far enough ahead? Are you making decisions without thinking or do you realize what will happen to your kids’ as well as your lives?
More from GEM: