Feed for Birds Leaving the Nest


The loud cackle of a colorful and exotic Amazon-like bird startled me out of my euphoric dream state on what was planned to be a no-alarm morning — like a military bugler pressing his horn against my ears, playing reveille and saying, “Get up, soldier!” I jumped up out of a dead sleep, only to see darkness out the window, giving me permission to nestle back into my thick warm featherbed covers. But alas, once I was awake, my mind was spinning faster than one of those wobbly toy tops we used to get at Christmas when we were kids.

So here I sit, in a dark little corner of my long wooden back porch with the light of my screen painting my face in a blue glow, barely able to make out the keys. Bundled for warmth, I’m treating my footsies to the the thick fake-fur socks I bought for snow painting in Canada.

It seems impossible that today is the start of December. From Halloween to Thanksgiving and then Hanukkah (Happy Hanukkah this week!), Christmas and New Year’s seem to go by faster than firecrackers popping on Independence Day.

Spinning and Spinning

Thanksgiving week was a blessing. A staycation, no travel and just time with the family, sleeping in every morning and suddenly realizing how exhausted I have actually been. When you’re spinning on the merry-go-round, you simply have to find your balance and keep going until it winds down, but once you stop, you’re a little dizzy and you don’t want to get back on for a while. What a blessing it’s been not to wake up in a hotel room or have to catch another airplane. Though I love to travel, I needed a break and plan to stay home till Christmas, though that required canceling some trips.


Brady, one of our 16-year-old triplets, got his driver’s licence this past week, and his first car. We gave high fives at the driving test, and when he was handed his license, his smile was beaming. He could not wait to have that moment of freedom we all remember so well — his first time out driving alone. And as he pulled away, tears streamed down my cheeks, knowing this is the first of many clues that our little birds will soon fly away. The other two are right behind him.

This moment, though long expected, has been harder than I thought. My mind is racing with questions about how we’ve done as parents, whether the kids are ready for freedom, and what critical lessons we need to impart before our nest is empty.

A parent’s work is never done, and to this day I learn life lessons by observing my own parents, who are in their early 90s but still manage to surprise me with great advice. They have also done a great job of luring us with “worms” to get us back to their nests on a regular basis. Soon, we too will have to find ways to make the kids want to visit, to spend holidays and summers with us whenever possible.

The speed with which children grow up was predicted to us by everyone who has been through it, but you never really realize it until you’ve experienced it.

A New Kind of Box

Over the years we’ve kept memory boxes of special moments, with papers from school, art projects, and other things the kids will want. But now, I need to start working on lesson boxes. How can I impart wisdom and lessons? Though I’m hopeful my kids will someday want to look through my life’s work, the magazines I’ve produced, hundreds of editorials, the marketing courses, the marketing book, even my radio history book, those things are merely a blip in the grand tour we call life.

Repetition Forever

Comedian Jack Benny, prior to his death, arranged for a single red rose to be delivered to his widow every day for the rest of her life. What if we could create one lesson a day, or a week, and have those lessons e-mailed to our kids every day for the rest of their lives?

My new goal is to give my kids a lesson a week for the rest of my life. Something simple, something small, probably something said in passing when we’re together, not packaged as a lesson. But something deliberate.

The Rhoads Walk

We are formed by those who surround us. My grandmother used to say I had the “Rhoads walk,” and walked just like my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my father. I once asked a doctor if it was hereditary based on bone structure, and he said it was learned. We learn from observation.


Our kids learn from our good and bad traits, the way we interact with our spouses or parents, the time we spend or don’t spend with them, and that will probably be exactly how they treat their own parents and spouses. They learn how we interact with others, the time we spend helping others, our work habits, our focus, the time spent with our kids, and they tend to mimic our moments of anger, of joy, or our interaction with our Maker.

I became two people … my artist mom and my entrepreneur dad. It was never planned, it was based on what I absorbed from their behavior. I embrace it.

My offspring have absorbed a lot, some not so good and some, hopefully, good. But there is still time, and that time does not end when they leave the nest. It never ends while you’re alive, and may never end at all as lessons pop up over time in situations when we call on our brains and experience for solutions.

Still, to make sure certain things of value that have been learned are passed along, it’s important to be deliberate and start planting important lessons. Now I just need to start making my list.

What would be in your life lessons list?

If you could get your kids to remember only three things, what are the most important things you would want them to remember for the rest of their lives?

What are the best things you want them to discover and the lessons to help them discover them?

What are the things you can help them avoid?

What traits don’t you want them repeating?

What traits have served you well?

Do you have others who need your lessons? How will you pass them on? Is it time for you to write that book you’ve been talking about for years? Why wait? Sure, we think there is plenty of time, but if it’s really important, how about starting today? It all starts with a first action.

Being Purposeful

I’m guessing the lessons I learned have been passed down for generations, getting better with each one. And in there were probably some things that someone had to learn to change. Yet when we think about our role, we live on through our kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and hopefully forever in the family lineage. Someone in your past was deliberate and purposeful in the lessons they offered, others passed on what they knew only by accident.

Which will you do?

I’d love your feedback in the comments below or in e-mail. I’m starting to work on my list and would love to hear about yours.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Everywhere I go people are sharing their stories about Sunday Coffee and what it’s meant to them. Most have told me they’ve shared it with others. If there is a particular Sunday when you find something you think has value for others, I’d appreciate your sharing it. Just forward it with a link to subscribe (www.coffeewitheric.com).


  1. Susan Loeb December 2, 2018 at 7:46 am - Reply

    My first lesson would be for them to consider the person who doesn’t seem to have friends, who sits alone at lunch, etc, and invite them to walk with you, sit with you, eat with you etc. Become a new friend to someone who is new. And listen to them, help them to feel important and considered.

  2. Johanne Mangi December 2, 2018 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Hey Eric,
    It always amazes me how introspective you are. You are always trying to know yourself better and share that with others so that maybe they will do the same. That’s the lesson I try and pass on to our kids or whomever will listen to me (or not). This is the first step in fulfilling your dreams or destiny. Really know thyself. It’s not a passive activity. And it needs to evolve as we go through life. It’s not about getting stuck. It’s about immersing yourself in life no matter what stage we are in. BOTH FEET IN!!

  3. Irv Rudley December 2, 2018 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Great Stuff. Please keep it coming.

  4. Judy Stice December 2, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

    As you reflect upon your children and your contributions to their lives, I sit and reflect upon mine. My daughter is 46, a mother and a successful educator/principal. I breathe a sigh. My grandchildren are up and running. At 26, my granddaughter is a teacher. At 16, my grandson is in early college. I sigh. Even though my work is not finished and never will be, I can pause and reflect upon blessings. The term “staycation” is an appropriate word for my current stage of life. I am planning to stay in my personal lane for awhile and focus upon my artistic pursuits. Thank you for your inspirational stories that bring out the reflective moments in our lives.

  5. Ken December 2, 2018 at 9:25 am - Reply

    The only thing I ever really wanted for my daughter was to be healthy and happy. As I read this we’re visiting her and our five grandchildren in Michigan. I think there are only three things you really need to know in life. How to learn. How to love. And how to let go. That’s what I’ve tried to pass on.

  6. paul December 2, 2018 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Coffee, Sunday morning paper and now YOU! Thanks

  7. Nancie King Mertz December 2, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful email! Enjoy the Holidays and a little freedom from your taxi service…see you in SF!!

  8. joyce snyder December 2, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Dear Eric,
    You may rest assured I pass on most of your Sunday Coffee Emails. They not only resonate in me ..for a long long time, those I send them to find their own message. God drives your fingers. Keep typing.

  9. Sandra Wygledowski December 2, 2018 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your Sunday Coffee Emails. I truly enjoy them. I’m thinking of writing a little life history for my grand niece and nephew. My Mother had several strokes and I never got a chance to hear her story. She was Latvian and was one of the DPs (displaced persons). I’ve recently read history books on Latvia and several books written by surviving DPs. I gives me a bit of an idea of what she might have gone through — but not her exact story. Thanks for the inspiration … Sandy

  10. Kathleen Alley December 2, 2018 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Three lessons I have tried to impart:

    Time is the most valuable commodity you own: Create something every day, something that no one else can undo.

    Be Nice to others, you do not have to love or even like them..but be civil.

    Master the art of breathing; it eliminates reacting to negative situations and emotionally charged conversations.

  11. Carole Belliveau December 2, 2018 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    My lessons have changed over the years. My three lessons are 1. Be creative 2. Be open to change 3. Be kind to everyone, including yourself.

  12. Susan a obrien December 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Must tell you that I sincerely enjoy your Sunday coffee emails. I journal every day and often love to sit with my coffee on Sunday and read your lesson of the day all wrapped up in nature and your home place. I feel I am right there. I am an emerging artist. Loving oil painting and have been lucky enough to have three solo shows so far. I am relatively new. 9 years and have a fabulous teacher. I am also blessed to be retired and have three young grandchildren to help watch. My life is full and my husband still works. We have a new puppy so life is very good. I think often about my legacy and if it is art and my grandchildren and kids who are all solid citizens. I think I will have done well!

    You have busy years ahead. Angst ridden in many ways re college but it all works out so enjoy. Your children just get more fun the,older they get. Trust me. Spend a lot of,time the next couple of years..you never get it back. I feel college is a blip and then they are,off,into,the,world. A good thing for sure. As you say you set up reasons for them to come back but these daily interactions never are there the same again.

    Thanks for all your energy establishing Plein Air spots. I find it too,daunting now but maybe someday.

  13. Susan Stover December 2, 2018 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Eric, what a timely piece! This has been a week of great introspection for me. Our oldest grandson left on Nov 26 to begin his training for a career in the Navy. He did it in the icy weather of West Virginia, leaving with two other young men who had never flown, to go to Dulles Airport and then onto Chicago. We were worried as the crippling snow storm in Chicago had destroyed any semblance of order in the flights in and out. We were confident that Joe could figure it out because we have traveled both stateside and internationally with him, showing him the ropes and letting him “show” us how to do it. It took them two days, but they made it. I look back and think how thankful I am that we had those teaching moments with him.

    I read your article and got a little (ok, a lot) weepy thinking how many times I wish my parents were still around to ask for advice. Your idea of an advice box is a wonderful solution . Even if they don’t use the “ancient wisdom “, just the memories of someone who loves them will be invaluable. I thank you, Eric, for sharing.

  14. Jan Cosseboom December 2, 2018 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric,

    There are a few life lessons that come to mind immediately.

    – Be kind. Even when it’s not that popular thing to do, be kind. Be kind especially to those who have had fewer opportunities and advantages. Make the world a better place to live. Your life will be better for it.
    – Be grateful. Gratitude can make hard times easier and enrich our lives on a daily basis.
    – Seek out companions who will improve your life and inspire you to be better.
    – There are three types of friends. Friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for life. Each one is a gift to be appreciated for what they bring to your life. (I read this somewhere and it resonates till this day)
    – Some worry is inevitable but remember that it is not a good use of your time or energy.

    Thanks for all you do,


  15. Harold Nelson December 3, 2018 at 1:13 am - Reply

    When they are out on their own..only hope is that the value system and faith-based decision making we instilled, as parents, will ride along with them on their journey, knowing all along we are here if they need help.

  16. Ann Fitzpatrick December 3, 2018 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Thanks for a thought provoking email. Yes time flies by so quickly and we do ask ourselves if we have done enough for our children not so much in words but in example, which I think tends to stick. Your idea of a lesson box is a lovely one. How marvellous it would be to have those words of wisdom from someone we have loved and still love and respect in their passing.

    Thanks for your Sunday Coffee morning chats. I look forward to them each week.

  17. Kelly Best Bourgeois December 3, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Thank you Eric for your very thoughtful insight. Someone dear once reminded me when our children leave home, we begin our longest relationships with them, the relationships we have with them as adults. Parenting never ends and I love the way you intend to stay on that journey with your family. Your insight is particularly appreciated as our youngest of 3 just started college this fall.

  18. Fay Shutzer December 3, 2018 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric,

    I have written before and told you how much I appreciate these weekly essays. When they arrive, I often save them for the right moment for reading, because generally they require some space for reflection. They are little gems….you share yourself, which is part of the recipe for success and your voice never rings false. You are more therapist than preacher, more guy next door than salesman, but you definitely have a git for your craft. Perhaps you will put these Sunday Coffees in a book, if not for the public, then for your family.

    So thank you for helping us to appreciate what matters and to try to search for our best selves. It is an ongoing process, isn’t it?

    I should probably just paint.

    Be well,


  19. Mark December 6, 2018 at 12:16 pm - Reply


    I always love reading these… even though most times it’s mid week. I have three daughters and like you I’ve tried to think of ways to share words of wisdom with them as they become young women. Currently they are 20, 19 and 16. One of the things I did was to give each of them on their 16th birthday some words of wisdom printed nicely and framed on a page of paper. Below is what I shared… most of it borrowed wisdom from Mark Merrill. I then personalized it at the bottom. I’m sure you could find something like this for your boys. 🙂

    8 Things I Want You To Know
    1. “You are immeasurably valuable.” Your immeasurable value rests in who you are, not in
    what you do, what you wear, what you drive, where you live or how you look. You are valuable because you are my daughter and were created by God and for God.

    2. “You are beautiful.” Your not only beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside where true beauty finds its source.

    3. “Be a Lady.” Girls can be modest and still be trendy. Use lady-like language…crassness and cussing are very unattractive. Use good manners. Draw physical boundaries and let men know that your body is reserved exclusively for your future husband.

    4. “Command honor and respect from men.” Your mom is the absolute love of my life! You don’t have to *DO* anything for someone to love you. The right person will cross a desert just for the chance to sit next to you at lunch. The fastest way to strain a relationship with a guy is to bring up old drama.

    5. “I Love You Unconditionally.” I love you no matter what, and nothing, absolutely nothing, can ever separate you from my love. I will love you always and forever (Period!).

    6. “You can Always Count on Me.” No matter what, know that you can count on me to always speak the truth to you. You can trust what I say because of my track record over time. You can also count on me to do what’s in your best interests. What to avoid—a bad relationship, a questionable movie, an inappropriate party…or, someone or something you should embrace—a new opportunity, a good event, or a faithful friend.

    7. “Love Others.” Loving others is our geat and eternal duty. Love is all about giving selflessly and sacrificially to others. Take time to look beyond your own world and care for those who are hurting around you.

    8. “Love God.” We were created by God and for God. We are to love him with all of our being—heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is absolutely the most important thing I can teach you.


    You’re already well on your way to knowing and applying these things mentioned above in your life. You’re such a great role model to your sisters and friends. Your mom and I are so proud of you and the young lady you have become. Happy sixteenth birthday! We love you with all our hearts.

    ~ Dad

Leave A Comment