By Tom Ehrich

The nest officially empties today as my youngest son moves into his first apartment.

It is an epic moment for him. I am proud of his determination to get launched in a challenging market for jobs and real estate.

We are sending him off with a good hunk of what we own. He won't have to start independent life in the checkout lanes at home furnishings, hardware and grocery stores. Over time, he can replace our stuff with his own.

Mostly, he is starting out with who he is and what he knows how to do. No home furnishings can equal the quality of his character, skills or work ethic.

He will have lonely times on his own. Some months he will scramble to pay his bills. He might not eat as well as he did at home. But those are formative experiences, and he will move through them.

One key to getting launched in life is a willingness to scramble. I once addressed graduating high school students and alerted them that their immediate futures probably didn't hold four-bedroom houses, new cars or the comforts of wealth. Some parents were furious, as if I had attacked their parenting. The students smirked and mocked. Oh well. Live and learn.

In a healthy launching, we don't start out at our parents' levels of income and comfort. We hit the ground, and we build something of our own. "Trust-fund babies" prove weak and dependent. Feeling entitled to something isn't the same as earning it.

As parents, we will need to let him struggle. Even more, we will need to let him change. We won't know as much about his life, nor should we. Much of the new person he becomes will take place beyond our sight and influence.

Like his two older brothers, he will be a mystery that we delight in discovering. When he marries, the mystery will deepen.

If I survive helping him carry boxes and furniture up to his third-floor aerie, I will start a new phase of life myself.

Exciting times.