The Bittersweet Lesson Every Parent Has To Learn

Whether you want to admit it or not, you'll get there.

couple walking Arina Krasnikova / Pexels via Canva

My wife Adi and I went for our morning walk today through the park. This has become somewhat of a ritual for us as we transition to a new phase of our lives.

Our daughter graduates from high school in less than 30 days and I am left eyeing the end of one book of my life while anticipating the turning of the page beginning what I can only conclude would be the final book of my life.

There Are 3 Books In Our Lives

I mentioned to Adi recently that I sense that I will have essentially three books of my life.


Book 1

The first began at birth and commenced when I was 19 years old and left my parent’s home to pursue my career in comedy. I never looked back to the great dismay of my parents.

I was on a quest to make something of myself. It was a fool’s errand that only made sense to the young and naive.

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Book 2

The second book of my life has been comprised of the last 35 years which consisted of building my career, raising a family, and carving my path in this world.

Looking back, I had very little awareness of anything outside of myself during this time. My life was entirely directed at the achievement and advancement of my dreams, collecting trinkets, awards, accreditations, and experiences that validated my desire to “become something.”


It wasn’t empty — it wasn’t hollow — it was just…selfish. Necessary, but selfish.

Book 3

I’m unsure how long the next book will last, but as I look forward, I can honestly say I have no idea what’s in store. I’ll watch as our daughter graduates from high school and prepares to embark on the next chapter of her life and then, Adi and I will decide what’s next for us.

Every parent goes through this, and we are certainly not unique in this passage of our journey.

I find myself far more sentimental than I ever imagined as this book comes to a close (I say “book” because these are larger swaths of time than “chapters” in our life).

@emptyquester Dropped your kids at college? Get started on some goals 🥅 Share yours below 👊🏻👊🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 #emptynesters #emptynestersoftiktok #emptynesterlife #tiktokmomsover40 #notebooks #journals #settinggoals ♬ Chillest in the Room - L.Dre

I’ve cried during this ending, questioned whether I succeeded as a parent, wondered where the time has gone, and learned to release all of it to allow our last little bird fly from the nest. I know she’s going to do great in spite of anything I’ve done.

So, Adi and I walked this morning through the park and as we did the smell of honeysuckle filled the air.

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Adi has her own sense of nostalgia bubbling up as the last five acres of her family land will be sold in the coming weeks ending nearly 70 years of family traditions, memories, and home stewardship.

Once the land is sold there will be no reason for us to stay in Adi’s hometown any longer — we will instead discover the setting will take place for Book Three of my life.

As of now, I have no clue where that will be.

A Drop of Honeysuckle

The honeysuckle brings memories.

Adi reminisced about her childhood, recalling how she and her sisters would pluck a honeysuckle from its vine and gently pull the stem to savor that single, sweet drop of nectar.


Yesterday on our walk she showed me how to do this. She gave me step-by-step instructions as to how to get that little drop out of the Honeysuckle flower. I pulled the stem and tasted my very first drop of nectar.

It was delightfully sweet, and it taught me a lesson in not wanting more. Be content with one drop, I thought wistfully to myself.

One drop is enough and in fact, you will cherish that one drop far more if you understood you only get one drop.

couple walking Liderina / Getty Images via Canva


I started thinking a lot about what is next for us, and I realized I don’t have any grand plans. Instead, I’d simply like to bring a little joy to every interaction I have with the people that I encounter in my life.

I have no great desire to teach anyone anything because I realize I really don’t know anything and most of the things I used to believe I knew, changed, or proved to be wrong. This has left me with little to share and even less of a desire to do so.

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The one thing I do know is that I can bring joy and love to every interaction with the people I meet each day. Like Honeysuckle, I can bring just a drop of goodness, that sweet taste of kindness and love to anyone I meet along the path while I begin my final voyage of Book Three.


I write this knowing that maybe twenty people will read this missive. But to those 20 people, I would say this: in this busy world where we are being bombarded with entertainment and information and new “ideas,” all in the hopes of getting our attention, I’ve come to understand the importance of slowing down — of truly bringing our full being into each conversation that we have.

As I think about our daughter, I realize that although I was there for the big events of her life, I was never really “there.”

I showed up in body, but I didn’t show up with my full being, my full awareness, my full unconditional love — I was distracted trying to achieve and in that quest for achievement I missed the moment.

I missed the Honeysuckle that was right before my eyes and that ever-elusive drop of nectar went untasted because I didn’t take the time to stop and smell the Honeysuckle.


i used to do this all the time when i was a kid <3

♬ original sound - lils

I walked by it, never taking notice of it, and unwittingly thinking there was something far better that deserved my attention.

I know many of us feel this. It’s not uncommon when our kids leave the nest that we reflect and consider that we may have done better, if only we had known. I also know that this is one of the joys of having grandchildren — that second chance to taste the nectar.

There is part of me that wishes I could have been better, but then, there is part of me that knows better — I did the best I could and now I’m left to try to do better. I just have to remember that it’s always a process. We are all just “works in progress.”


It’s time to slow down now and enjoy the honeysuckle — to taste the nectar that we call life — because we truly don’t know how much time we have left.

Wishing you blessings on your journey.

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David Ahearn is the author of "Happy Accidents: The Transformative Power of 'Yes, and' at Work and in Life" and “21 Days to Saying Yes to Life,” a journal born out of his passion for helping people embrace the richness of life.