JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The departed

My daughter is leaving for sleep-away camp this Saturday, and I am very depressed.

This comes with being a parent, and it’s the part I hate the most. Namely, selflessness. When you’re single, you do what makes you happen. Oh, there are concessions. To your folks. To your girlfriend. To your pals. But, basically, if you want a bagel, you buy a bagel. If you wanna sleep in until noon, you sleep in until noon.

Ha.

My daughter is almost 9, and she will be spending seven (yes, seven) weeks away from me. Cliche be damned, it seems like a few months ago that we brought her home from the hospital; that we were changing her diapers; that she was learning to walk; and talk; and understand. I cherish the summers we’ve had together—county fairs and trips to the zoo and ice cream and July 4 fireworks. I don’t want her to grow up any more, and I certainly don’t want her to grow up five hours away from me.

And yet …

I do want her to experience life. And try new things. And take chances. And discover herself. I want her (not yet) to kiss a boy for the first time and fall in love for the first time and drive across the country with her friends and backpack Europe and see all the things she’s supposed to see. At the same time I want my baby girl to need her daddy, I want my growing girl to not need her daddy quite so much. Hence, while I hate that she’s leaving for camp, I know how important and beautiful and wonderful and opportunity it can (and, hopefully, will) be.

Last Father’s Day I wrote a CNN.com column that resulted in a lot of heat. I spoke about fathers who do little with their kids; who choose golf over ballet recitals and watching TV over Saturdays in the park. They’re out there (you and I both know who they are), and—as my daughter’s last bags are packed—I can’t help but think of them once again.

Childhood goes by so fucking fast, I hurts me. I don’t regularly succeed at this, but I try and cherish the moments and embrace the smells and sights and giggles and happy times. I want this all to last forever, because I’m fully aware that like this (snap!) I’ll be old and gray, and my kids will be adults with jobs and mortgages and such.

I am so happy.

I am so sad.