Walking away, moving forward

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Screenshot 2021 05 30 4.27.54 PM 336x454 1After I drop my daughter off at school in the morning, I try to take a little time to clear my head before I begin my day – just ten or fifteen minutes and a little walk through the neighborhood. There’s a small wooded patch of walkway off the side of the building and I’ve found that I can do a pretty quick and gentle half-mile loop.

Re-center. Focus.

This has become a pleasant, and even anticipated, routine. During one such drop-off recently, however, as I watched Little Bean trot off into school with her friends, I somehow became acutely aware of walking away from her. Walking away after school. Walking away after tucking her in at night. Walking away as she does her homework, practices her gymnastics, plays with her friends.

The process of letting go has begun, right there, right in front of my eyes.

And I get it. This is where she’s supposed to be. My job is morphing, becoming a cheerleader and facilitator; soon I’ll find myself in the position of providing unambiguous love toward the affirmation of whichever direction her life may take her.

We begin the process of walking away so that she might begin to realize the potential of her own life rather than the expectation of mine.

It’s so easy to write that, and so difficult in practice. I wish, I want, to be even more present as the obstacles become more challenging. I want to always walk at her side. But that will be up to her, and besides, we’re not quite there yet.

Recognizing that it’s coming is appropriate and it’s up to me to adjust, not her. In the meantime, we have pierced ears coming up. We have the transition between belief in Santa and the Tooth Fairy and realizing that it’s the ritual that counts rather than the actual magic. We have swimming and ice skating, things I can’t do but she loves so I’ll be the learner, not the teacher.

I’m ready to begin to see her as her own person, with a set of motives and passions outside my own – collaborators in this thing called life, you could say.

To that end, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate the direction of our shared history and allow her more agency in how she lives her life and in how I write about it. I’ve been writing Transcendental Dad for two years and writing about Little Bean and our life together since she was born. (Literally, since she was born. The first essay about her I wrote from the maternity ward on the evening she was born.)

Now, it’s time to walk away from one style of writing and toward another.

She has more ideas of her own now about what she wants to explore, and indeed what she herself wants to write about.

I read a story a while back about another long-time parenting writer who never told her daughter that she’d been the subject of her writing until the daughter found out, by herself, when she was a teenager. The daughter wasn’t happy and the writer simply insisted that she was making a living and her family had to deal with it.

That sounds just dreadful.

So, more and more now I talk to Little Bean ahead of time about these and other essays and books. I give her the space – even at not yet 8 years old – to have some say, have some control over the shared details. Will she still be upset when she’s a teenager? Maybe. But not because she didn’t know.

So, beginning in November, we’ll begin a new project, a daily newsletter called Day By Day over at the Substack platform. The topics of parenting, travel, miracles and awe will remain, but it will be by subscription, offering us a bit more control over privacy, giving her some breathing space. If you’d like to join us on that journey, and if my kind benefactors here approve, I’ll leave a link at the bottom of this page.

And of course, Transcendental Dad will remain here, a monthly window into the everyday joy of being a dad.

So, walk away with us into this next stage. Let’s see what we can discover.

Subscribe to Day by Day via Substack.

About this Author

Dan Szczesny

Dan Szczesny is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife and energetic daughter in Manchester. Dan writes a daily journal called Day By Day where you can subscribe for FREE to get essays, articles and updated. Learn more about Dan’s adventures and Day By Day at https://danszczesny.substack.com/