Thursday, July 12, 2006
Being father can be tough
Summers seem to be busier than ever for most children, including my own.
Sunday, we left our daughter Emma at the University of Southern Mississippi for three weeks. It’s one of the hardest things this dad has done - period.
She just turned 15. She got her driver’s permit last week. She’s driving my automobile some with me in the passenger’s seat. Now she’s off to college (not really).
She’s attending the Summer Program for Academically Talented Youth, a part of the Frances A. Karnes Center for Gifted Studies.
But helping Emma get set up in a dormitory room and saying an emotional goodbye felt a bit like college.
There are 62 young people in attendance from eight states.
The experience, we believe, will be wonderful.
But that didn’t ease the pain of leaving her four and a half hours away from home under the supervision of people we had never met in our lives.
The parents’ meeting helped ease our minds a bit.
One father, whose son had participated last year, too, said when when he came to pick him up after the three weeks, he was crying.
“But he wasn’t crying because he was happy to see us,” the parent said. “He was crying because he did not want to leave.”
But then the meeting stressed us out a bit, too, when another parent asked about what the school would do with the children in case of a hurricane.
USM, as you know, is close to the coast, and everyone’s minds are still on Katrina and its devastation.
As we figured, shelters and a plan of evacuation, if needed, are in place.
Emma, back on June 23, completed her sixth year of spending two weeks at Camp Tahkodah near Batesville, Ark. I recall that first trip to church camp when she was 10 years old. It wasn’t easy leaving her there.
But she’s grown to love the camp, her fellow campers, the counselors, everyone involved, and her spiritual life has been greatly uplifted. All year long, she looks forward to going to church camp.
She has built up a network of friends from many states.
We think the result of the USM program will be much of the same. It is designed to include appropriate academic, cultural and recreational experiences. USM offers the program through cooperative efforts with the Duke University Talent Identification Program. She will be enrolled in an intensive, fast-pace course in forensic science.
I’ve said it more than once in the past few weeks, and I will say it again.
Our children are growing up and fast.
Last week I saw a photo at home that I had not seen in a while. A small Andy was inside a cardboard box and a not-much-bigger Emma was kneeling beside – both with huge smiles.
It was made about nine years ago when we lived in Aberdeen.
I thought, “Where has the time gone?”
Raising children is a tough task, and it’s hard sometimes to tell whether or not you’re doing the job correctly.
Really, only time will tell.
Pam and I will know a lot more about the results of the Summer Program for Academically Talented Youth on Saturday (that’s when Emma can make her first telephone call to her parents) and on Sunday (when we can go visit her on campus at USM).
In the meantime, as I did Sunday, I will continue to wake up in the middle of the night, and think about Emma and hope that she’s OK and that the experience will be rewarding, fun and one she will cherish forever.
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