The Umpteenth Lesson My Firstborn Son Taught Me Is That He’ll Always Be My Baby

The Darnit Family: Johnna, AJ, Evan and Josh in the background.
The Darnit Family: Johnna, AJ, Evan and Josh in the background.

I’ve been a dad for almost 19 years. That’s almost half my life spent questioning basically every parenting decision I’ve made, wondering if I’ve done anything right, and accepting that I may never know the answer to any of those questions.

As your firstborn approaches adulthood, hopefully you’ve got some idea if they’re leaving the nest with clear direction and purpose in life — or if they might need a little more time to figure things out. If you’re one of the lucky ones, pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to some waffles; you’ve earned them. For the rest of us, welcome to the club. You’re in good company.

AJ at Denver Union Station.
AJ at Denver Union Station.

Whatever the story is, this much is true: Your baby isn’t a baby anymore. They’re also still totally your baby (and might still act like a baby on occasion). They crave freedom, but also sometimes shy away from responsibility. It’s tough to let them learn from their own mistakes, even though natural consequences are a great teacher. So, you parent when they’ll let you, and brace for impact when you see calamity coming.

When our eldest son, AJ, left the comfort of San Diego to live and work for a season in Winter Park, Colorado, my wife and I were both excited and terrified. We’ve now learned that several of our friends did the “ski bum” thing in their youth. By all accounts, it can be a life-changing, course-altering experience. We didn’t even know it was a thing. It’s a thing.

After graduating, AJ spent about three months volunteering in the US Virgin Islands with a nonprofit organization that offers disaster relief services in areas that have been hit by earthquakes, hurricanes or other natural disasters. It was there that he learned about the opportunity to work the slopes in Colorado, a perfect way to get your fill of snowboarding and do some more traveling.

AJ volunteered for a nonprofit in the US Virgin Islands that provides disaster relief.
AJ volunteered for a nonprofit in the US Virgin Islands that provides disaster relief.

AJ loves traveling but has an unfortunate knack for losing things. Things like wallets, keys, smartphones, and yes, even his pants at times. So we worry, but he enjoys his independence; and we like seeing him take initiative.

Winter Park is a two hour train ride from Denver. Fraser, the neighboring town where AJ lived, is small — like “population 1300” small. Most of the kids working at the resort rely on buses for transportation. It’s thirty minutes to work and fifteen or twenty to the nearest grocery store. Definitely less convenient than asking Mom or Dad for a ride or taking a cab. There was a single ride-share driver, but you couldn’t count on him being available when you need him. Oh, and there’s no mail service at the employee living apartment complex.

So what’s a parent to do when they learn that their 18 year old baby boy is laid out sick in bed, a thousand miles from home, and he doesn’t feel well enough to brave the 12-degree cold for a 45-minute, round-trip medicine run? Oh and by the way, he’s been living off ramen noodles and the neighbor’s peanut butter because he hasn’t even received his first paycheck yet? And he lost his phone on the slopes?!

AJ with his mom as he heads for a job on the slopes in Colorado.
AJ with his mom as he heads for a job on the slopes in Colorado.

It’s tempting to hop on the first flight with a portable medicine cabinet and a bag full of burritos. Thankfully we had a plan in place. Long before we sent our not-so-little bundle of joy off to face Fraser’s harsh winters, we confirmed that Amazon would be able get to AJ even if we could not.

Suddenly, peace of mind was just a matter of adding the right provisions to our Amazon cart, which could be delivered right to AJ’s front door. With a little planning, we could still provide remote care for our child. AJ was in Colorado for just over two months and, in that time, we leveraged Amazon to make sure that he had the basics, including (but not limited to) a first aid kit, canned goods, a much needed can opener, various medicines and toiletries, a replacement cell phone — and yes: even more ramen noodles.

Sure, it felt a little like a government bail out; but what are you gonna do? He’s my baby and, in some ways, he always will be. But as those moments become fewer and farther between, I’ll take what I can get while I can get ’em.

Josh with his baby, AJ.
Josh with his baby, AJ.

This article was paid for by Amazon and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.