Identity Theft

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The last child is off to college or career. Now what? Mac Clayton has this Perspective on identity theft.

Can you hear it, the flapping of little wings as youngsters leave the nest?

I had children under 18 in the house for so long, I hardly knew what to do when I didn't.

Some ideas: Throw yourself into your work. Travel. Make love in places you never could before. If you have a dog, be nice to it. It will become your replacement child.

This too will pass, I might add, except I'm not sure it's true.


When your kids leave home, it's a form of identity theft. You are no longer snack-maker, homework-nagger, chauffeur and spy. The role of parent is not one you play, it is who you are. When they leave, you're consigned to straightening the comforters on their beds, dusting their trophies, hoping they'll call.

If someone steals your social security number and your credit, we call it identity theft, but it isn't really. Only your children can steal your soul.

It won't pass, at least it hasn't for me, even after seven years, but it will get better. You'll begin to share in their lives and achievements in different ways. You'll meet them at lake houses and invite them to join you in Paris. They may not, but even the hope of it will be exhilarating. You'll remind them to renew their passports.

It will get better but it will always be there, that small empty spot. Like the damage to your self-confidence when you tried out for the eighth-grade football team, like the BB-sized hole in your heart when you lost that first love. The scar will fade so that you'll hardly feel it except on sad, rainy days. Or on sunny days, when you're sitting alone on a bench in a park watching a scrum of third-graders in a soccer game and your foot twitches as if to kick the ball, a reflex called up from a time when you knew with certainty who you were.

With a Perspective, I'm Mac Clayton.

Mac Clayton is a writer living in Palo Alto.