Editor’s Notebook: Another chance to say goodbye

August 24, 2022 5:01 am

Two unhappy girls and their weary dad in mid-yawn on a first day of school long ago.

When our daughters were young, my wife and I worked opposite schedules – she during the day and I at night. It wasn’t a bad situation for a young family that couldn’t afford day care – and it worked for us right up until both girls were old enough to be in school all day.

And then it didn’t work at all.

My shift began before they were home from school and ended long after they had gone to bed, which meant that most days I saw them for an hour or so while they got ready in the morning and that was it. No dinners together, no TV shows after bath time, no bedtime stories. I spent a long time looking for a day job – and feeling sorry for myself – but even in my desperation there was always a deal-breaker: too far of a commute, too small of a salary, poor health insurance. As much as I wanted more time with my family, I was caught in a scenario that is not uncommon for workers in New Hampshire and beyond: What I most wanted for myself and what I knew my family most needed from me were at odds. I was stuck.

On one particular first day of school, I remember my older daughter crying and my eyes filling as we said goodbye. She understood as well as I what the end of summer meant for the rhythm of our days.

I’m sure very few people would fault a dad for wishing he could spend more time with his daughters, but when I look back I can’t help but be disappointed in that guy. I was fully miserable because I was holding on too tightly, and I’m sure there were days when I polluted our house with bad energy when a little bit of quiet sorrow would have sufficed. I can see now that if I was less selfish back then I would have been thrilled for all of the first days of school, for all of the different people the girls would encounter and experiences they would have, good and bad. Instead I dwelled on what I would be missing out on as their father. Worse, I couldn’t see that the time they spent with their mother – just the three of them – would help shape them in a thousand ways and create a thousand happy memories.

As I mentioned last week, the older of our two girls is heading to college. She leaves on Friday and is an ever-shifting jumble of emotions. In other words, she’s behaving just as a young person ought to at the start of a new story.

I’m sure there will be some tears this week and the weeks to come, for all of us, but I have no intention of setting an emotional trap for myself as I’ve done on past first days. After more than two years of a pandemic, societal upheaval, and extended isolation, a new road has opened for our girl. She will miss us a lot early on – especially Lobster the cat – and we will miss her exponentially more. She will have to make difficult choices, without our guidance, and sometimes she’ll get it wrong. She will struggle – and surprise herself with resilience. Her life will belong to her a little bit more each day and then, just like that, she will grasp the reins and be set free.  

This time, that’s what I will remember when we say goodbye.

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Dana Wormald
Dana Wormald

Dana Wormald, a lifelong resident of New Hampshire, has been a newspaper editor for more than 25 years. He began his career on the Concord Monitor’s news desk in 1995 and later spent more than a decade at the New Hampshire Union Leader. In 2014, he returned to the Monitor to serve as opinion editor, a position he held until being named editor of the Bulletin.