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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shoulder Time

A couple of nights ago, Dylan and I sat next to each other on the sofa. He was feeling rotten, suffering through flu-like symptoms. He leaned against my shoulder as we watched TV, and a realization washed over me: it had been at least a year since he'd leaned up against me like that. He was sick then, too.

Don't get me wrong. I'm openly affectionate toward Dylan, and he doesn't seem to mind. We hug a lot. When I drop him off at his school in the morning, I still kiss him on the head, and he doesn't seem too embarrassed.


He's eleven now, and getting more independent, and the little boy in him is receding into the background, little by little. I thought about that as we sat there on the sofa.

Sometimes, he gets exasperated with me, and informs me that I still treat him like a little kid. I explain to him that, to me, it doesn't seem so long ago that he was so small I feared breaking him while picking him up.

One day, when he was three, we came back from town. I extracted him out of his car seat, held him close, and kissed his head.
"Thank you, Daddy. Will you still kiss me when I'm thirteen?"

I was taken aback, and I laughed a surprised laugh. Where the heck did a three year-old come up with such a question?

"Well of course, Punkin'. But you know, sometimes by the time boys are thirteen, they don't want to be kissed by their daddies anymore. I might have to chase you down and tackle you just to kiss your head."
He giggled. "That sounds like fun."

It also sounds like a good motivator to stay in shape.