Sheppard, Brett, Stewart, Hersch, Kinsey & Hill - April 2020

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Flying Out of the Nest Adjusting to Our NewNormal in Parenthood

I ’ll never forget when Patti and I moved our third and youngest daughter to college. Madison was attending Elon University in North Carolina, which meant loading our family car and Madison’s vehicle with all her essentials for college and making the 12-hour drive up the coast. After getting Madi settled, we said our goodbyes and headed to Gainesville, Florida, for dinner with our middle daughter, Courtney. Around midnight, we walked into a quiet, empty house for the first time. When I climbed to the top of the stairs that night, I stood on the landing and stared at the three empty bedrooms. The beds were perfectly made, and any signs of our daughters were packed tightly in drawers or stashed away at their respective colleges and apartments. The sight tugged at my heart. I realized we had finally made it: Patti and I were empty nesters. Today, rather than kids filtering in and out of our house, it’s just Patti, me, and our 16 1/2-year- old dog, Frosty. (You may recognize Frosty if you have been in the office. The front desk employees like to give him treats, so he tends to hang around with them!) It’s a bittersweet phase in many ways. Every parent wants their children to grow up to be happy, healthy adults who move out and lead successful lives. There’s certainly less fighting over the television, but it’s still very different. It’s a major transition that takes some adjusting for everyone involved. When they were kids, we tried to fix everything for our daughters. Today, we act as a sounding board, only offering our advice when they

ask. And in the end, it’s worth it. Our three girls are confident and independent, and we could not be prouder of them and the young women they have become. Our eldest daughter, Gabrielle, or Gabi, as we call her, is 25 years old and works for Thrive Global in New York City. She’s been away from home for about eight years, and while it’s hard to be apart, we are so proud of her for taking a chance. She’s created her own life, and I have no doubt she will continue to make us proud. (We also love her boyfriend of five years, Benji.) At 23 years old, Courtney is our middle child, and she is currently enrolled in the physical therapy doctorate program at the University of Florida in Gainesville, my and Patti’s alma mater. It’s great to share that part of our lives with her. When my partner, Michael Hill, and I were at the Heckerling Institute this January, I slipped away for a few hours so Courtney and I could grab dinner at Satchel’s Pizza — the best pizza restaurant — and see a basketball game. Of course, Courtney keeps herself busy. She was elected class president, so she will represent her class for her entire three years of physical therapy school. Who knows where her career will take her, but she’s already making tremendous strides. Our youngest daughter, the one who officially made us empty nesters, is still in school as well. Madi, who turns 20 this April, transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University here in Fort Myers after my recent bout with heart surgery. It was sweet of her to move closer to home after that scare. Madi has a heart of gold and a wonderful capacity for knowledge. She received full honors at Elon, and I have a suspicion that she will transfer back once she feels confident that I’m back in great health. Our girls give us plenty of reasons to be proud, and while we may no longer see each of them on a regular basis, Patti and I have adjusted well to a quieter home and a different dynamic in our relationship with our daughters. We haven’t been perfect parents — each of us has our fair share of mistakes — but as Gabi, Courtney, and Madi have grown into the young women they are today, I’ve become more and more excited about their futures. They have already made me one very proud dad.

– Craig Hersch

1 (239) 265-9779

April 2020

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