Hello daughtah ... Love, faddah

So it's high summer and you're away in a cabin in the mountains. At camp.

"I miss you," I write, adding, I hope the swimming and riding and campfires are wonderful. That the kids and counselors are terrific company. That there are good times and laughs and memories to last a lifetime.

And you write back, telling me of new friends and adventures and how marvelous it feels to be on your own. No errands or homework. No yardwork or painting the kitchen.

This is your time.

But it is also mine. Because, my girl, these are the weeks of the liberated parent. It is camp for you. It is vacation for me.

No, I haven't flown off to Big Sur or Aspen or the south of France. There is still an office to go to. There are deadlines and obligations. There is money to be raised to pay for your good times. Every season it is more. I work harder each year so you can have this time off - from me, and from your mom, and from your small, ordinary corner of suburbia. It is my pleasure, I'm an ex-camper myself.

I hope you'll understand - without jealousy, without resentment - that these weeks apart are not altogether sad for me. In fact, they are sometimes joyous, guilty pleasures, welcome breaks from parental Sturm und Drang.

Camp, my dearest, works both ways.

Say it starts first thing in the morning.

Waking you - our tired, tedious routine - is now off my radar. I am deep in the covers, grabbing an extra hour. Watching Sports Center. Maybe cracking a book or reading the papers. It is well-earned sloth.

Then a leisurely, extended shower. I've no breakfast to make - there will be bagels and eggs and coffee at a counter down the block.

So much time has returned to my life.

There are no lunches to make at 7 a.m. No scraping the dregs of peanut butter jars or slicing leftovers just the way you like them. No peeling carrots or parceling out potato chips.

These days, I shave with a barber's precision. No rush. No carpools to run.

I see movies on Wednesday nights. I play poker Thursday evenings, instead of grilling you for tests or "helping" with math assignments I never understand.

By the way, did I mention I miss you?

I miss your cheer and questions and optimism and, astonishingly, the way you commandeer our car radio. I miss your curiosity and the way you look - on the verge of growing up - when I drop you off at tennis.

You are probably not the next Serena Williams or Eve Curie, but you've always been in my heart. Even on those awful, tedious mornings when I move heaven and earth to get you to class.

Because I can play only so much poker, and listen only so long to cronies talk of daily doubles and golf scores, the summer lasts just long enough.

For you to have your freedom.

For me to live my life without you.

Joseph Honig, a former CBS and AP journalist, writes for television and is executive producer of the National Lampoon Newsreel.

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