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The Change


It's always fascinated me how many different cycles life's relationships have, and how constant many of them are from culture to culture.  One of those "whapped" me right in the face last month.

When we have children, the parent/child relationship is established naturally.  I suppose the urge, the need, to love and care for our babies is somewhere in our DNA.  We sustain our babies when they're young, guide them as they grow, teach them as they mature, and pray that we don't destroy them as they transition into their teens.  Even after they move out of their teens, we are still parents, offering advice and nurturing them as our young adults start to make those important decisions and face those seminal moments that frame their adult lives.

However, after they survive those rites of passage, at some point the parent/child relationship somehow becomes one of equals.  Friends, in a way--even best friends.  Confidants.  Each of you knows, implicitly, that you can rely on the other for anything.   This past week, I passed into that next life cycle with my son.

You guys know my son: The Officer (I've blogged about him often).  He's a police officer in a beautiful city about 3 hours by road from here.  He is now very established in his career, does okay in the paycheck department, and thanks to the wisdom of his wife, my Adorable Daughter-In-Law (the ADIL), has a few bucks in the bank.   They recently bought their first house and have remodeled/restored it just beautifully.  Now I've visited them for the weekend before, but it was always Dad visiting Son/Wife.  This visit was different.

This trip, we weren't talking about what he should do in his career, but what he is doing in his career.  It wasn't about what he wanted his plans for the future to be, but how he was working towards his future plans.  It wasn't "what are you making us for dinner?" but "where do you want US to take YOU for dinner?"  It wasn't me telling the server "I'll take the check!" but The Officer yelling to the waitress "the check is mine!"  To an observer, it looked like a couple of friends just enjoying each other's company.  Now, I realize that to the uninitiated this may sound trivial, but speaking for all of us who have hit this fulcrum point in the relationship with our children, this represents a change in our emotional landscape on a tectonic scale. 

It means our babies have grown up.  They no longer need us, at least not to sustain and nurture them.  We've moved from Parent/Child to a relationship of equals (if structured by "seniority").  And, I have to say...after the shock of the realization, I am totally digging it.  I don't have to brace myself for their trips home to wreck my monthly budget.  I don't need to keep a free bedroom in the back of my house in case he and the ADIL need to move back home.  They've got their home now--and both are happy and secure in it.

So for now, I've made my peace with this "status change" in my relationship with The Officer and the ADIL.  However, lurking in the back of my mind is the realization that this puts us one step closer to the final role change we all have with our children--and it's not one that I'm looking forward to.  It's the role reversal: when the parent becomes the child, and the child becomes the parent.  Having gone through that with my Mom over the past decade or so, I still have uncomfortable memories of the awkwardness and conflict that "trading places" caused.  But I also remember what got us through it without killing each other--and that's the love and trust we'd placed in each other our entire lives.  Hopefully, I'll keep that piece of wisdom in my "back pocket" and remember to pull it out and put it to good use when that reversal of roles happens to me, and to The Officer. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!



Explorer C
thanks Owen, very touching personal story. gb
Explorer C
We need your help! Southwest Airlines made us leave our sweet 15 pound rescue puppy in Little Rock, after they let us fly there. We met all the specifications to get the dog on board, and the main reason he did not get on the plane was because Southwest Airlines hired employees who are supposed to be in charge of checking the dogs, but hate dogs/ are deathly afraid of them, and do not know how to follow their own rules. And now our puppy is in LR, he already has seperation anxiety, he had vet appointments today in SD, and all because of petty cruel employees. Also, Southwest does not seem to care enough to respond quickly to the situation, because we are just 2 nobodies as far as they are concerned, and think it is ok to let our family puppy be away from his loving owners. Please write them at and put in reference #164211661 and let them know this is unacceptable. Also, any lawyers or journalist, or people who know any of those types, who would be interested in helping, please contact me. Sunday morning, at 5:30 am Beren (my fiance) and I (Jonathan) went to the Little Rock Airport with our 6 month old puppy Gatsby (half dachshund/half cocker spaniel, 15 pounds) to fly back to San Diego on Southwest Airlines. We had sedated Gatsby but Beren had him in her arms as we waited to check our bags and to purchase the pet boarding pass that we had already reserved. The Southwest lady finished with the passenger ahead of us in line, and so we walked up to her. She all of a sudden noticed Gatsby in Beren's arms and freaked out. Freaked out bad, because apparently she was afraid of all dogs, even cute 15 pound puppies that are asleep. She told Beren to put him in the dog crate immediately, and she said that he had to be in his crate at all times, which we know is not entirely true, because you have to take him out to go through security, and the policy said that he only has to be in his crate once you go through security, so she was misinformed. She calls out her supervisor because she is so freaked that she saw a dog, even though it is part of her job, and so he comes out suspicious and slightly hostile. He then says that the dog is too big and that he is not getting on the flight. We flew with Gatsby to LR from SD and have before, he is under 25 pounds, and meets all their policies regarding dogs, and they let us bring him here. Beren told him that Gatsby is 15 pounds and not too big. Then the supervisor said that the crate was too small for gatsby. We put Gatsby in the crate to show that he was erroneous. THen the supervisor said that the dog needs to stand up in the crate. Southwest policy says the dog must be able to move around comfortably and be able to stand up in the crate. We have the measurements to prove that Gatsby can stand up in the crate and move around, but the man just was not in a good mood and was rude and just kept saying no and no and no, because Beren was crying and telling him that this is ridiculous, the dog had flown several times in that crate, he can stand up, he just wasnt at that split second because he was sedated to ensure that he was quiet in the plane for the other passengers. The man tells Beren she needs to calm down and that there is no way that the dog is getting on the flight (which was only half full, and we had reservations for Gatsby, and we had met all their requirements because we had traveled a few times with him). Beren goes outside and calls her stepmother Ashley who dropped us off, and Ashley returns and attempts to talk to them. THe supervisor was already holding Berens boarding pass and wouldnt hand it over to me, luckily we had online versions printed off. Ashley walks in with Gatsby in the crate, Gatsby is standing up in the crate, moving around in it, and Ashley points that out, and the supervisor is being obtuse and stubborn and just says no. Ashley starts arguing, and eventually the police come over to see what the problem is, so I grab Ashley and tell her we have to leave. Ashley takes Gatsby and drives home and Beren and I get on the plane, because we have obligations that had to be taken care of. Luckily our families live in LR, or we dont know what we would have done. All this started because Southwest hired a woman who was deathly afraid of dogs, even though part of her job is checking in dogs. Then it being so early in the morning and the only supervisor working is not in a good mood and not a puppy lover, so they tell us our puppy can not go home with us. They let us fly to LR with our 15 pound puppy in his airline approved crate that he definitely fits in, but then because of ignorant employees in LR, we do not have our cute little puppy dog with us, who had vet appointments today and friday in SD, and who is an integral part of our little family. And the employees were smug about it, like, proud and happy they had kept a sweet sleeping puppy (who met all the requirements, and who SOuthwest had let go to LR) be forced to stay away from his family. Beren and I are outraged, we are trying to talk to Southwest about it, but they are so slow to make amends, and probably wont do anything to their employees. We are looking into hiring a lawyer to sue Southwest if they dont play ball, and to sue the employees personally, for both apologies, negligence, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. ALSO TO GET OUR PUPPY Back to SD. My parents might fly another airlines to drop him off, but we have had such an emotional horrible experience, it is not easy to get a dog somewhere, and SOuthwest is so slow to respond to us, we are freaking out. We knew their policies, we met their policies, and there was no need for any of this to happen. That puppy is like our little child and we want him back, we want those horrible employees fired, and we want Southwest to train all their employees on the correct procedures so this does not happen to anybody else. It is heart breaking. Either Southwest employees screwed up in San Diego or Southwest employees screwed up in Little Rock (and were rude). It is not fair for them to have a pet policy that their employees dont know how to enforce, and to make us leave our puppy who is a rescue and already has issues, behind in a city they let him travel to, is ridiculous!! My fiance can not stop crying and we really miss him, and so far Southwest has done nothing but tell us to hold on. If you have the time, please write Southwest and let them know your outrage. Again, the email is and put in reference #164211661 and let them know this is unacceptable and outrageous, and help us get our puppy back soon.
Frequent Flyer B
Jonathan, I apologize that I wasn’t able to get back to you yesterday. As I mentioned in my previous message, I wanted to touch base with our Little Rock Employees to see if they had any additional information to share. Our policy, as stated on our website, says that Southwest Airlines accepts small domestic cats and dogs, which must be carried in an appropriate carrier. Furthermore, the cat or dog must be completely inside the pet carrier and be able to stand up and move around with ease. According to our Little Rock Employees, the dog that was with you when you checked in could not stand up, turn around, or fit comfortably in the carrier. For that reason, they could not allow him to travel. ... See More I can understand how frustrating that situation must have been for you - you’re at the airport, you’re ready to travel, and suddenly, your plans are interrupted. So, I can understand why your fiancées temper may have flared, causing the Little Rock Airport police to arrive on the scene. That said, our Employees have an obligation to ensure that all pets and Customers that travel onboard Southwest Airlines can travel safely and comfortably. The fact that Gatsby did not meet our policy requiring pets to fit comfortably in their carriers is the reason that he was denied boarding. My research also suggests that you had trouble traveling with Gatsby back in September when he was just 14 weeks old, at which time, he was denied boarding after several Customers complained about the noise and our Flight Crew discovered that he was not secured in his carrier, as is required at all times. Nevertheless, our records indicate that our Customer Relations Departments provided you with a $75 gift certificate as a gesture of goodwill and apology for your inconvenience. Mr. Camp, we added our P.A.W.S program earlier this year as an added convenience for our Customers, and I am truly sorry that this service has been anything less than convenient for you, your fiancée, or your dog, Gatsby. As Gatsby continues to grow and mature, please keep in mind that, having already outgrown the terms of our P.A.W.S. policies, it is unlikely that he will qualify to travel with us moving forward. Of course, I understand that there is still the lingering issue that Gatsby remains in Little Rock. Please contact me offline so that we can discuss options for getting him home to San Diego. Again, Mr. Camp, I am sorry for your inconvenience. I’ll look forward to hearing from you soon. Sincerely, Paula Berg
Explorer C
Thanks, Bill, for this great post. I have wondered what it's like for my Mum to now be on the other side of the roles we were in when we were younger. It hit hard when my Pop was diagnosed with cancer and died within four months whilst right in the middle of caring for him, Mum had heart failure. I had both parents to look after. I don't have children so I'll never understand that part of the equation but I want to understand what it's like for my Mum so that this time in our lives will be most rewarding and enjoyable for her. I am blessed to work for Southwest and to have the support from my Leaders and Coworkers especially during the depth of our crisis. I, too, bought a house just after Pop passed away and my 78 year old blind Mum came to stay. This was the longest stretch of time we spent together since I left home to start flying twenty years ago. We bonded more as adults and shared memories of Pop with tears and laughter and did for each other the things friends do. I still need my Mum and and I now feel she needs me but it works differently than it did twenty years ago. She likes the idea of helping me with my home like buying a piece of furniture or slipping me some cash. For years I wouldn't accept the gifts gracefully but now I understand that sometimes a gift from her is just that and not an attempt to say, "you need me." Again, Bill, thanks for letting me hear from the other side so to speak. But I have to say you are light years away from that complete roll reversal. ; )
Explorer B
Jonathan, shame on you for using this Blog for your own misconceptions!
Thom, Your Mum is blessed to have you....and you, to have her. Just enjoy each other! And I certainly hope you're right about that "final" role reversal! And wwelifer....thanks. :) Bill