When I was 12, I went to Swanleigh. Mum and Dad and the other boys were in Laverton for the first half of the year, Monkey Mia for the second (Dad had long service leave).
Once the excitement of a new environment wore off (didn’t take long), to say that I didn’t handle the separation from my family very well would be an understatement. I wasn’t quite so bad mid-term, but whenever I had to leave, or get left behind, the blubbing really started.
One time really stands out. Dad had come down to Perth with a school camp. He came and took me out of school in the morning for some reason (might have been for a dentist appointment, I had plenty of those around that time). I don’t remember much about the morning, but we probably had morning tea somewhere. There was probably a present for me in there too (there usually was).
I do remember what happened when we got back. I remember standing in the car park. Dad was supposed to go and meet up with his school group and go off to the movies. I wanted to go with him. I’m sure the movie probably appealed to be, but I just wanted to stay with my Dad.
So I did what I often did at times like that: I cried. Not loud, screaming, gimme-what-I-want type crying. Quiet, sniffly crying; what Dad used to call “sooking”.
He tried to reason with me, which didn’t help much. I wasn’t in much of a mood for reason. I just didn’t want Dad to have to leave.
That is just how I feel now.
Some years later, Dad told me how bad that day had made him feel. How he had eventually just had to drive off, leaving me sooking to myself. By then, I understood. I understood what he had done. I understood that sometimes you do just have to do things you don’t want to. That even when it hurts or makes you feel bad, some things are just for the best.
And that Dad is sometimes the best person to decide when that is.
Funnily enough, by the time year 9 came around, I didn’t have the same problem. I mean, I still looked forward to coming home and didn’t look forward to going back all that much. But from that point on, there were no more tears when I had to leave Mum and Dad and my brothers.
That day was important in the process of me learning to stand on my own two feet. I’m an independent man now, with a wife and children of my own. And my Dad helped me to get there.
But right now, that doesn’t matter. I just don’t care about that. I just want to stamp my feet, scream, jump up and down and sook my little heart out. Because right now, I’m that 12 year old boy who doesn’t want his Dad to go.
Bye Dad, I love you. It doesn’t feel like it now, but you’ve done your job right. I’m going to be able to stand on my own two feet. I just don’t want to.