It is the kind of conversation every parent looks forward to having with a child.
He was a high school senior, and the end of school was quickly approaching. Graduation date was set, and I was already shopping for his departure set of luggage. My boy transitions to manhood.
On this particular day he interrupted my preoccupied mind with a common question, “Daddy are you busy? Can I talk to you?”
Now, I was busy, but I had learned a long time ago not to ever pass up those opportunities, no matter how urgent other tasks appear. There are often no second chances.
“No, son. Not busy at all. Go ahead,” I answered.
“I have decided on what I am going to do after high school. I am going to college, to the same school you attended in Alabama. I was so inspired by my history teacher, I think I will major in history,” he expounded.
I am not sure what else was said after that, because the dormant volcano inside, erupted, and started spueing the hot lava of disappointment.
“Son, are you crazy? You cannot be so inspired by a history teacher that you alter your father’s hopes and dreams, which you said you shared. Why not the Calculus or Chemistry or Physics teacher? Do you understand why I bought you several sets of scrubs, as you grew, from the age of 5, until you felt it was no longer cool? Why do you think I bought stethoscopes, BP cuffs, bandages, medical tape, and fake prescription pads? This was practice; programming; dress rehearsal for your residency in some medical specialty. Why do you think I bought into Mississippi’s 529 college savings plan when you were 4 years old? I had plans for your life, beyond high school.
If you don’t know, let me tell you. I believed. I believed in you and your immense potential. To follow the agreed upon blueprint.
It was not for you to tell me a history teacher has interfered with that. My recommendation is for you to stick with the plan. End of story. Now, let’s start this conversation over.”
I ranted for another 5 minutes or so. Some of it may have been unintelligible.
The truth is, the response to his announcement only occurred in my mind. My mouth never uttered those words.
I let him finish. Then I spoke. “If that is where you believe you can do the most good for humanity, and take care of yourself and a family, then I am all for it. But you cannot, and should not, live this life only to satisfy yourself. You must find a way to be of service to others, while you can. God expects that from you, and so do I. We are our brother’s keeper. Let’s plan together to try to make it happen.”
I have given him the tools for success as I knew them. I have shown him a consistent life example. What he does with it is left up to him.
I must now reposition myself from Guardian and Protector to Counselor and Coach.
We can still do this — together.
Danny R Chandler is EMT with American Medical Response, and founder of Mississippi Friends of Oakwood Committed to University Support (Mississippi FOCUS). He is married to the former Reta Boone, 1981 graduate of Westover High School. They live in Madison, MS. Email Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org.