Parenthood: Letting Go

I was told, before my child was born, that my entire world was about to change, and that nothing would ever be the same. What those people said was true, but what they didn’t say (mostly because those same people weren’t at this moment in their journey yet), is that it would happen again. Today (the day this post is released), we pack our child’s belongings into the cars and head out to move her in to college, four plus hours away.

This, while exciting, is exceptionally hard. Let me give you some context.

Up Til Now…

My daughter, Savannah, was born a little over 18 years ago. She is our only child. From day one she was “Daddy’s Little Girl”. There is no doubt how much I love my kid. She makes an appearance in a photo in my first book. She’s a significant part of my Lightroom photo catalog. You’ll find videos of her performances all over my YouTube Channel. She’s all over my Instagram feed and the galleries of my Photography site.

And, I tell everyone (who will listen) about my amazing kid. All the time. Yes, I brag about my child. She’s amazing. She’s smart, and beautiful, and talented, and compassionate, and independent… She’s grown up into an exceptional young woman. As one of my neighbors points out “She’s a total Bad Ass”.

I’d like to take the credit, but I can’t. Her mom (my amazing wife of nearly twenty years) is the one who gets the credit. We made a significant sacrifice, from the very beginning, by choosing for Teresa to quit “work” to take on the toughest, most important job of all. To be a full-time, stay-at-home Mom. And she has always been there for our kid, taking her to piano practices, and voice lessons, and archery practices, and choir rehearsals, and making sure she gets her homework done.

I’m the tough one. On top of being “Dad”, I’m also a Veteran. I’m the one giving her responsibilities, telling her to stick to her commitments, pushing her to handle things “today” to prepare for her “future”. And, of course, “Boys are evil. Stay away.”

Mom is the soft touch, and I’m the tough one. Occasionally we switch up, but that’s the general way of it.

Where We Are

Fast forward to today. We’ve survived the school years, despite the COVID pandemic senior year. Savannah was accepted to seven different colleges, three of them right here in the Nashville area. But, Savannah wants the “full college experience”, without the safety net of being close to home, so she finally decided on Mississippi State University. Heading off on her own into the big world to do it her way.

She qualified for a slew of scholarships, including Key Club and Choir, as well as being accepted into the Shackouls Honors College. (Yes, I’m bragging on my kid again.) It’s not cheap, costing an arm, a leg, and at least one kidney. I’ll also be giving up part of my liver later, due to the alcohol I’ll need to consume getting through this. But, she’s off to get a quality higher education.

The weeks leading up to today have been rough. Aside from emptying multiple bank accounts for tuition, housing, and dorm room necessities, there has also been the packing, short goodbyes with long standing friends, and self quarantining. The closer we’ve gotten to today, the more short bursts of tears as several ‘lasts’ have been reached, not just with Savannah, but with Mom and Dad as well.

And, today, we drive off to move her in to her dorm.

What’s To Come…

Teresa and I have raised a strong, smart, brave, independent young woman. We know her journey, into the adult world, is just beginning. She’s jumping in with both feet, and it is terrifying to us (and a little to her, I’m sure). We have done what we can, up to this point, to prepare her for all the things to come. And now, it is up to her. I know she’s ready, and I know there will be bumps in the road. She knows that we are, still, always here for her, for love, advice and guidance. She will do great things. Of that I have no doubt. She is a total Bad Ass, after all.

And so, once again, mine and Teresa’s whole world has changed. It will be very different, without Savannah here. With us. And the days and weeks ahead will be a monumental shift, with this new hole created by her immediate and (ultimately) abrupt absence. We’ve lived the majority of our married, daily life raising and caring for this exceptional child. Now we go back to spending most of our time solely caring for one another. Before Savannah, Teresa had become the center of my universe. With Savannah, that center shifted for us both. Now, we pivot back. Older. Wiser. It will be hard, at first, adjusting. But, we have each other. I’m so thankful we still have each other.

Dear Savannah,

You have no idea just how proud we are of the young woman you’ve become. You’ve hit the next verse in your song of life. Just remember that all these notes are always in your range. Belt it, Baby Girl, and show ‘em how it’s done. You’ve got this.

Your Biggest Fans,
Mom and Dad