Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Change of Heart

People ask me how my son handles me going away to fly helicopters. That's the nature of most flying jobs; dads (and sometimes moms) go away to work.

At eleven, Dylan is pretty stoic about me leaving, except during times like hurricane evacutions in the Gulf of Mexico, or annual training, when I'm away for longer stretches than usual. My friend and coworker Todd has a son the same age, and relates that it's pretty much the same with his son.

It's all Dylan has known, after all. When he was a little guy, prior to starting school, I'd get a kick out of how he reacted when I walked through the door after being away: it was like he picked up on whatever conversation we had before I left.

But at the age of seven, it seemed that Dylan really got a grasp of how other families lived. His little friends had their dads home every night. One night, when I reminded him that I'd be leaving the next morning, he burst into tears. It shook me. I held him in my arms like he was three again.
"I don't want you to leave, Daddy."

Oh geez. For the last year, I'd been "Dad" instead of "Daddy." This was serious.

I said, "Dylan, if me going away is really getting to you, I'll find another job."
"Yeah, really."

He pondered that for a moment. "So you'd be home every night?"
"Yep. Every night." More pondering.
"Dad, would you still volunteer at my school?"
"Well, probably not. I'd probably be at work. Have you noticed that it's mostly moms who volunteer at school?"
"Yeah. Dad?"
"What, Punkin?"
"Does that mean we couldn't go camping during the summer?"
"We could go camping, but it would mostly be on the weekends."
He frowns. "While more people are there at the lake?"

He thinks more. "Dad?"
"If you got a job where you didn't have to leave, does that mean you wouldn't be a helicopter pilot?"
"Well, yeah, I guess that's what it means."
"I couldn't tell my friends my dad is a helicopter pilot anymore?"
"I guess not," I say.

He holds his hands up in a stop right there gesture. "WHOA WHOA WHOA. FORGET IT."

And that was the last time he brought it up. Sometimes, I guess, peer influence can be a blessing.


Algernon said...

A wise lad!

Bob said...

I love Dylan.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog through another blog. I too am a pilot in the gulf and have often wondered at what age my son will start realizing that I am gone for 14 days at a time. He is 4, and it is beginning. He hasn't yet cried when I leave, but I know it is coming. I guess only time will tell.....