When Lifelong Daddying Grants Us Yet Another Sunset
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
The memory of the Pamet Harbor sunset looking west toward Provincetown over Cape Cod Bay returned unbidden. Although I have traveled to that spot – my favorite in the world – a number of times since, it was that particular generation-old sunset that returned to mind as I exchanged Godspeed hugs with two grandkids as they set off on their cross-country journeys to begin their respective careers.
Actually, it was the metaphor of that sunset that occurred to me after watching the sun sink
below the horizon. Let me explain.
When my youngest daughter left for college, I drove the four hours from our Connecticut home to Truro, MA, to seek solace and process her departure. Christina’s leave-taking seemed sudden even though it was more than 18 years in the making. She is my third daughter and her departure followed that of her two older sisters. I traveled to Truro to calm the sadness I felt about the end of this stage of my life and the excitement I felt for her – and her sisters before her – as they set forth on this important life transition/milestone.
Pamet Harbor was a place of tranquility for me; a place where the harried pace of my life could be put on hold. And that early evening I had the tiny harbor to myself as small boats sat on the water’s surface and seagulls squawked overhead. Sure, I had watched many sunsets and was always in awe of their beauty, but I never had the time, nor took the time, to watch the sun’s journey.
Christina’s leave-taking seemed sudden even though it was more than 18 years in the making...I traveled to Truro to calm the sadness I felt about the end of this stage of my life and the excitement I felt for her – and her sisters before her – as they set forth on this important life transition/milestone.
It seemed to take quite some time for the sun to travel its last minutes on its daily path to the
horizon. I marveled as I watched it. For those moments, it calmed the complicated emotions I was feeling as my youngest “baby” began her next life phase. A welcome sense of peace came over me. But suddenly that peace was interrupted by the seagulls’ screeching.
Looking upward I was distracted from my focus on the setting sun and I missed the instant it
sunk below the horizon. As I thought about how quickly the sun had disappeared from view, in contrast to its slow descent, it dawned on me that it was an apt metaphor for Christina’s departure.
The more than two decades of living daily with my daughters were suddenly over.
Even though it was predictable, like the daily travels of the sun, it seemed to come abruptly. And so, as predictable as it might be, this current leave-taking of two grandchildren beginning major life transitions feels similarly abrupt. And I am filled with a similar mix of feelings as they “head off into the sunset” – feelings of excitement and hope that their paths will be smooth, knowing that they will make their way, and offering me hope that our hurting world will be better off as a result of their energy, passion, and good-heartedness.
Much as I had assured myself a generation ago at Pamet harbor, I remind myself that the sun will rise again as morning breaks.
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the inaugural Daddying Film Festival to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.