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Empty the Tank

I am staring at the big elephant in the room. He is right there. We are eye to eye. I can’t avoid his gaze and yet I want him to go away. But he won’t. He will be staring at me with lazer-sharp focus until September 19th when my daughter leaves for college. She is my oldest and the first to leave the nest. I know I have discussed this before, probably even obsessed about it, but it’s now here and looming all over my household. My child is leaving. She is packing as I type and this weighty issue is almost more than I can bear. But as sad as I am that one part of my life is winding down, I am thrilled that a new chapter is beginning for my wonderful child.
Which brings me to a parent’s biggest dilemma. What do you say to your child in those last moments before you head to the car and she heads to a new life? How do you sum up years of life’s lessons? I assume you start with the obvious reminders: Stay safe; watch your surroundings; don’t set your drink down and walk away only to come back and take a sip; always walk with a friend at night; try and eat healthy once in a while. And then there are other not so important things I think I want to make clear: Don’t wash your new cotton/flannel shirt in hot water; give me a decent reminder when your contact lens supply is running low; don’t forget to lock your bike; let us know when your meal card is running low. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not certain how much she will hear.
A few days ago I was watching something on the Internet. A person was giving praise to someone he admired and his words captured me. In honoring his friend he remarked that whether his buddy was performing before large crowds or being a good husband, father or citizen, that he “empties the tank … he always empties the tank.” Those words struck me. You can’t do better than that. So as my daughter gets ready for her new adventure, I want to say to her, “Empty the tank.” As you walk into your new dorm, as you meet new friends, as you go to your classes and introduce yourself to your professors, give it everything you got. Show them what you are made of. Show them your kindness. Show them your eager eyes and your contagious sense of humor. Let them hear your hearty laugh and let them feel your spirit. You have so much to give to this world, so give until you can give no more. Make every experience count. Push yourself in every endeavor. Don’t give up. Empty your tank.
In the next few months I will be learning a few things too. I will fight the urge not to text her several times a day. I will limit my advice and see how she will handle life’s problems. I’m going to focus on watching her bloom as opposed to giving her unsolicited advice. I want her to know that we are always here for her and this is always her home. Make good choices and continue to make us proud.
And so that’s what I will try and say amidst all of the emotions that are certain to surface. But in case the words don’t come so easily next Sunday, let me say it now: Empty the tank Kate. Oh, and don’t forget to call once in a while.

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