August 18th, 2010
04:26 PM ET

A gift before she leaves the nest

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/TECH/innovation/07/16/computer.voice/t1larg.gps.system.dashboard.courtesy.jpg caption="As I write this, our 19-year-old daughter is driving a car packed with belongings as she moves to an out-of-state university after a year at our local community college." width=300 height=169]

As I write this, our 19-year-old daughter is driving a car packed with belongings as she moves to an out-of-state university after a year at our local community college.

She is the oldest of our three children. Her mother and I tell people we’ve had a “bonus year,” as our daughter lived at home (thank you for the cooking and baking), but led a relatively independent life busy with school, work and her boyfriend.

Today she begins a new chapter in her life and so do we. To mark this milestone my wife arranged to do a “StoryCorps” interview with our daughter at the local public radio station.

For those not familiar, “StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.” Interview segments are broadcast weekly on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Since its creation in 2003, StoryCorps has collected more than 30,000 interviews involving more than 60,000 participants. The interviews are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Our public radio station also airs interviews recorded in its studio.

The interview with our daughter was an exceptional experience. I sat quietly as my wife asked my daughter about experiences ranging from her pending move, to interning this summer with the public defender’s office at a murder trial in Miami, to their trip to religious sites in Morocco and Spain, to growing up in a Jewish congregation founded by members of the gay and lesbian community, to relations with her younger brothers and more.

Most of the time our daughter was poised and thoughtful, at others displaying the awkwardness of youth. My wife maintained her composure, becoming “ferklempt” with emotion only a few times. We left with a copy of the full 40-minute interview, which we’ll share with the grandparents. I lost it in the car as I drove off with my wife, blubbering at the thought that maybe we had done a good job of preparing our daughter to leave the nest.

Among her numerous professional credits, my wife was a founding member of the Association of Personal Historians, so she has an abiding interest in the preservation of family histories. In this spirit, she sent an e-mail to David Isay, the founder and president of StoryCorps. “Please, please tell other parents to take a moment to do this with their kids. It was one of the most deeply moving moments in our lives, a chance to stop, take a breath and reflect on this precious, joyous, bittersweet milestone!,” she wrote.

Parents, as your children prepare to leave home for school this fall, considering giving them – and yourselves – this most valuable gift.

Filed under: 360° Radar • David Schechter
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Soumaya Khalifa

    Thanks for sharing. This is such a moving story. I know exactly how you feel and you and your daughter will do just fine. Audrey is so wonderful to think of StoryCorps. Can you share a link from the NPR segment?

    Thank you again!

    August 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    What a wonderful idea. I wish I had done that with my older children before they left the nest. I didn't but I can still do something similar today – one of my daughters is getting ready to have her first child so it would be interesting to see what her thoughts are and what her memories are of being small. (And how she will do better at mothering than I did!).

    I may not have interviewed my children but I have my parents and grandparents to try to preserve some of the stories they would tell us about growing up – my parents grew up during the Depression and WW2 and my grandparents who were born in the 1890s have wonderful stories of the rural lives they led – stories that would have died with them and that would have been a shame. Thanks for suggesting it for our children too....

    August 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm |