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March 16, 2013

DODD: Parting is such sweet sorrow

“Whenever it is possible, one should choose some occupation which they should do even if they did not need the money.” — William Lyon Phelps

Kim and I are the parents of a high school senior. I think perhaps as parents it will probably be the most life-changing year for us.

This year has been a year of learning new things and for Kim an almost constant task of researching on the computer. Grants and scholarship applications have been completed during some weeks on an almost nightly basis. When filling out school application forms, one often feels like they are trying to get a top security clearance from the government.

Trying to decide what school is the best fit for your child is an almost overwhelming task. Such decisions and their respective consequences might well determine the path their life will take. Attempting to budget for future expenses will leave one’s eraser doing more work than the pencil being used.

Amid all of these necessary obligations, every now and then it hits you. Our child is now a senior in high school and we are pretty sure he will graduate this year. I am sure that Cameron, like so many of his classmates, has no real concept of how life changes post high school.

For Kim and I, the toll will certainly be an emotional one. I know many parents of his senior peer group will be experiencing the same thing. The rite-of-passage from childhood to adulthood for most young people must pass through the gateway that is graduating from high school.

Kim and I have had a wonderful time as parents up to this point. Save a few very minor bumps in the road, it has been the most satisfying years I have ever lived. Being a father has changed me in ways too numerous to count. I am a much better person than I was before. I have been taught simultaneously the lessons of pride, humility, love, pain, happiness, sorrow and confusion all often in the span of 24 hours.

Somehow through, for 18-plus years we have all kept our sanity and maintained a loving family relationship. Cameron is an exceptional young man and Kim and I are proud, physically exhausted, and emotionally drained parents. How we find the strength to deal with the next four years of advanced education and diminished parental control and influence is yet to be seen.

Cameron has decided to attend Ivy Tech for the next couple of years to pursue an associate degree in computers. After that, we will make further plans for a four-year completion of a degree. It seems to be a good fit for the family and serves as a way to gauge his own determination and drive to achieve advanced educational opportunities.

While Cameron has been a good academic student, he has certainly excelled at Prosser in the computer technology field. I plan to write more at a future date about the absolute gems that Prosser and Ivy Tech are for our community. Future plans for us now seem to aim for a four-year degree from either the University of Louisville or at my old alma mater, Indiana University Southeast.

The truth at this time is simple. In high school, the success of a student is a combination of hard work and determination of both the student and the parents. When pursuing a secondary education, it’s really going to be all about the student. No parent can want something bad enough to make their offspring want it if there are not personal goals and determination on their part.

As a parent, letting go of your child and setting them into the world is a natural process that really doesn’t seem all that natural.

I suspect that a few tears will be flowing on a certain Saturday in May and I don’t mean because of my losing Derby wager. Memories such as that first day of kindergarten when we felt like we were sending him off into the big mean world will only seem symbolic compared to actually sending him off into the big mean world after high school. As of today, it’s all something we continue to discuss as a matter-of-fact. In some ways the reality of it all really hasn’t hit us yet.

I only know what many other dads are experiencing as that moment approaches. We will be much less the authority figure in coming years .We will have to settle for a role as adviser and friend. I know from every parent I have considered to have been a good one that this role can be very gratifying and satisfying as well.

I remember how easy it was to tell him how much I loved him when he was young. Hugs and kisses came easily and without totally embarrassing him in front of his friends. However, this past week as I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy watching television, Cameron came into the den and for no reason and without any words simply gave me a hug and walked away. It had been a long time since that had happened. I liked it.

I thought about it as he left the room and reminisced about something he would always say to Kim and me when he was a just little guy. Kim or I would ask him how much he loved us. He would get the most wonderful smile on his face that I have ever seen and exclaim, “Daddy, I love you so much my heart hurts.”

Well son, sometimes mom’s or mine still does.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer than can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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