I have been a parent for 13.5 years, at time of writing. It goes without saying that I’m a different person today than almost five thousand days ago. There are things I miss about my pre-kid life, and things I wouldn’t give up for the world. Today, I will dwell for a short while on what I miss. Not to just lament days and doings gone by, but to examine if I actually miss what’s missing, if there’s a way I can reclaim the ones that are important or let go of the ones that aren’t.
I used to be on time. Always. Early even. If I said I was going to meet someone at 2pm, you could set your watch to my arrival. Ever since my kids could walk on their own, they’ve made me late. The days when they were in a car seat were pretty sweet. Just strap em in and off you go. Their mobility has ruined my good record of punctuality.
Schooldays, I will drill sergeant the shit out of my kids, keeping them on a minute by minute schedule. Get dressed, brush your teeth. use toothpaste, come downstairs to get your coats and boots on. This is the moment where it seems that time speeds up. My kids will somehow be ready to go, near the front door. Yet, from one foot in front of the door to that first step outside, somehow 15 minutes have passed. As if there’s a wormhole, this is where most of the lateness comes from.
Is this important to me? Hell, yes. And more than myself, it’s important that my kids learn the importance of punctuality. Lateness is a habit that is difficult to reverse, it seems, so I want them to understand that they need to be on time, every time. Showing up late for a specified time is in the top five of ways to make someone feel disrespected, in my book.
This one is a real talk topic and I think it affects many parents. Once the kids arrive and the reality and the fear of finances kicks in, for many, it’s the time to settle and seek consistency. I worked in advertising for many years in production. I decided to try to move into the creative side as a copywriter. So, I worked to make that happen. However, when I realized that I’d have to go back to square one in all ways, including pay, I knew I couldn’t continue to make it happen. There was no way I was going to be able to afford a mortgage and a child on an entry level position. I also had dreams of opening up a fancy little soup, salad and sandwich shop, but apart from the finances, I knew that to make it succeed, I’d need to spend most waking hours devoted to it and was unwilling to miss my new family that much. Sadly, this idea predated every loaf-sniffing artisanal sandwich experience in Toronto and could’ve been a winner.
Few people land first in the job they’ll retire from, so this can sting. My wife came up against this later on as she considered job or career opportunities. Our lives had settled so much that she felt cemented to the physical location of her work. Both kids’ school and daycare were close to our home, so the idea of having to contend with longer travel to pick them up after school or if they got sick was a serious consideration.
Is this important to me? Well, the interesting thing is that I now have many jobs opposed to just my one day job. I’m the music editor for a website, I’m a photographer, I’m an extraordinary dad blogger plus I have a day job. So, while that copywriting job didn’t work out all those years ago, I’m pretty damn glad I didn’t start on that path. I’m sure I’m much happier now than I would’ve been as a advertising creative. I found other things that are important to me.
Once this mattered to me. Taking off for a weekend at moment’s notice, making a frivolous purchase, throwing caution to the wind to do…whatever. I loved living on a whim. I used to. Not at all important to me now. Maybe in 49 years when my kids move out I’ll rediscover it.
I remember when the weekend started on Thursday night. That was a long time ago. So long, it was standard prior to learning the point I made on punctuality, back when I used to stroll into work at around noon after clubbing the night before. Weekends were what lived on the other side of Friday’s finish line. A weekend used to feel like a mini vacation.
Now, the weekend is when I feel more pressure to do the things I couldn’t accomplish during the week. A reminder that I chose to sleep instead of work. Weekends are when we get to fold all the laundry that we washed and dried during the week foolishly thinking we were getting ahead. Weekends are a humiliating lesson that you need an extra day off to actually feel relaxed and the tiniest bit prepared for the coming week. This all being said, children aren’t directly responsible for this feeling. Tho I’d have half the laundry to fold if we were still just a couple. No matter what, weekends are the longest amount of time we get to spend together so I’m moaning but not truly complaining. I have no problem driving kids around to programs and hangs with friends. It’s just the housework that the weekend brings that I’d rather not do.
To wrap up, I need to point out that this was a bit of a painful exercise and I’ll explain why. I can generate a list of the things I love about fatherhood – the ways it has changed me that I would never want to give up, never want to change back. That’s easy. Having to get mean and dig deep to face these things that I felt I missed was hard. It was hard to look past my children for what I felt was lacking in my life. However, it was actually worthwhile to make me see even more positives.
There’s nothing I truly miss, but there are things that I need to do, to do better by my kids, to ensure they become the best adults they can be.