I just finished the second of two Parents' Weekends this Fall, one with my daughter in her junior year at college and one with my son who is a freshman.
It's been a huge swirl of emotions as I've embraced a new life stage as an empty nester. I have no separation anxiety per se, it's just that when you've spent 20 years taking care of two little people, it's a bit of an adjustment when they move on.
Those two beings have influenced every aspect of my life over the last two decades, including my career decisions, social life, where to live -- every aspect.
You can't just turn that off over night.
But as I went to visit them at their respective colleges, I realize now that they are starting on their own path of life decisions. Now I'm a marketing guy, so I tend to look at everything through that a "branding" lens. So from my perspective, they are launching their own personal brands right before my eyes, and I couldn't be prouder -- as a Dad and a marketer!
My daughter? She's got her time in college organized to within an inch of her life, including what electives she's taking, where she wants to live, a study abroad program, and even how to plan for graduate school. You go girl! She knows what she wants and when she wants it; the girl has a brand and a plan.
My son? He's spent his first few weeks building a network of friends. Within a very short amount of time, he's got a posse of friends whom I'm betting will be with him for the rest of his life, much like his circle of friends from high school. My son is very inclusionary, so he's already woven me into that circle. He's a good guy. While he doesn't know exactly what he wants to do yet, he knows who he wants to do it with.
Both of their "personal brands" have been so incredibly consistent throughout their lives, I swear since the moment they were born.
From the moment they were each born, my daughter came out planning her school career and my son was trying to figure out who to hang out with! Both are still the same today as they launch their lives (aka "brands") in college and beyond.
So how did we spend each Parents' Weekends?
Time with my daughter was spent planning her next semester abroad, buying groceries so she can make her lunch every day, and talking about whether she should work after graduation prior to grad school.
Time with my son was spent cleaning his dorm room (clearly for the first time all semester), shopping to replace the items that had broken in the two months since we moved him in, and dinner with three of his good friends at a college town pub.
Naturally. Wouldn't have expected or wanted it any other way in either case.
And how is Dad doing in the equation here?
I don't remember life before my kids, so there's no life without them now either. They are still a key consideration in every decision. I've always been super involved in their lives, guiding them every step of the way. It's changing now but I love how it's evolving and I love helping them through the challenges they now face, despite the fact that those challenges get bigger and bigger each time.
I'm still here, still guiding these young "brands," but in a different manner as they make critical decisions that will impact how their lives take shape. I'm thrilled to be continually welcomed into the process.
We are all at a different stage of life now, but still operating in the same roles. I guess that's true of my "brand" too.
Cheers to all the parents out there: embrace each stage of parenthood and the change that comes along with it. There's no fighting it anyway, so you might as well enjoy and learn from it. I know I do every single day. Make it a part of your brand!