I knew the lecture was coming the minute I stepped off the plane.
While I was on vacation, my dad had offered -- very nicely -- to do some work on my car, including getting it washed and vacuumed. His comments went something like this: "It was filthy. You really need to take better care of the outside of that car. If you don't, it affects the car's value."
I didn't want to admit it, but he was right. My car was a mess, having not been vacuumed since my last beach vacation, two years ago.
I should take better care of it and my dad was doing me a huge favor by getting at tune-up and having it cleaned.
There was also a tiny part of me that thought: I'm an adult. It's my car. Let me handle it.
My dad hears this a lot now that my sisters and I are all grown up, college graduates with jobs. Like most adult children, we think we can handle most of life on our own.
But just because your kids leave your house doesn't mean that a dad's job is done. Since Father's Day was Sunday, here's my advice for dads whose kids have just left the nest:
You don't have to fix everything. In fact, you shouldn't. In my experience, dads tend to want to "fix things," for their kids because they're good at it. Who is the first person I call if my car goes haywire? My dad. I appreciate his help and advice every now and then, but I also like to take life mostly on my own. Dads don't always have to patch things up or give their kids money to make a problem go away. Sometimes you have to let them figure it out on their own.
Don't ask too many questions. Your kids appreciate your interest in their lives, really. You're a dad, so you have a right to be concerned if your kids seem a little down or lost in life. But the questions you're asking -- about their careers, who they're dating or what they want out of life -- they don't have all the answers right now. If they did, they might share them with you -- or they might not. Trust me when I say that you probably don't want to know everything about your adult children's lives. You remember when you were their age, right?
Spend time with them. Congratulations! Now that your kids are out on their own, they've mostly gotten over their "I don't want to be seen with you in public because you embarrass me" phase. The reason? The first couple years after college are tough and they'll need your guidance every now and then. Also, they are probably close to broke, whereas you can afford to go out to dinner at places that don't ask, "Would you like fries with that?" No one turns down dinner when their parents are paying. Once they're trapped in a booth, there's nothing stopping you from grilling them about the details of their lives. After all, they're adults. They can handle it.
Sara Pauff, 706-320-4469, email@example.com. For more commentary, read her 20-something blog.