Father Time is a weekly column dedicated to the concept of time in a parent’s life, particularly a father’s life. The point of view comes from a father of two young sons, both under three-years-old, and how time really is just that: a concept.
Last spring, I stumbled into a quaint bookshop in Point Loma after getting some acupuncture next door. My wife was due any day with our second son, and my couvade was in full swing with migraines and muscle tension. I was thrilled to find and buy a rare Vonnegut collection, and I was going to read it right away.
A few days later, our son was born, and everything went on hold. The book stayed where it lay. For months. In fact, I didn’t crack it open until later that year when I flew from California to Florida for a business trip. I had five magnificent hours on the way there, and five on the way back. Between work and life, there isn’t time to sit down and read for fun. I haven’t found that time. At least not yet.
It may come later. This from a friend of mine from grad school. Mark, a poet, musician, pastor, and father of three adult daughters once said, when talking to me and a couple other guys just starting our families, that your life, more specifically, your life passions, go on hold when you have children. All those little side fixations and hobbies have to wait.
So when do they resume again? According to Mark, it’s once the kids get into their own passions. Then you can get back into what you were doing. You can pick up where you left off. Sort of. Because by the time your kids are into their own things (sports, music, etc.), you’re just as much into them with them, and so you step further away from those life passions. That is unless you make a very concerted effort to keep at them.
For example, staying in shape has been one of the toughest activities to maintain as a new dad. I used to get up on Saturday mornings and go for 50-mile bike rides, or four mile runs. The past couple of years, I’ve fallen off the fitness wagon and gained some weight. I feel a little bad about not sweating like I used to, but here’s the thing: it was all a conscious decision. When Saturday morning rolls around, I’m now thinking of taking my son to Little Rascalz Soccer practice, and the nap I might have later in the day. Might have.
If anything, the addition of children into my life has taught me to prioritize my passions. Yes, I want to stay fit and healthy. So how am I going to go about doing that? I’m not going to get on the bike for five hours on a Saturday. Instead I’m going to run one mile around my neighborhood each morning I get up early enough. One mile. That’s it. On the days I’m not running, I’m going to lift weights in the garage or do some yoga, about 15 minutes in total. It’s not much, but it’s something, and the only way in my present state that I’ll get to keep up those passions.
In essence, it’s all about deciding on what you want maintain when you have children. And it’s even more about what you and your spouse agree upon. Some of the dads in my social circle take guys’ weekends or golf afternoons, and that’s great for them. I personally am geared to be close to the action at home. Yes, I need alone time and time with the guys—we all need that—but it seems my focus remains on what’s going on within the family. That is my current passion.
My wife and I had a major hang up before we ever had kids: would we still be able to do the things we love together and the things we love individually. We used to joke that we would have no problems sending the kids off to boarding school so we could resume our own activities. But now, with the darlings ruling the house, we want to be with them all the time. We couldn’t imagine shipping them off to Switzerland. Well, maybe in about 15 years.
Back to that book I took on the plane. I had roughly ten hours to read it, but I didn’t finish all of it because A) I’m the world’s slowest reader, and B) I had to fight off naps and the distraction of my iPod on that flight. So how did I finish the book? I read a page here and there when I returned home. I made a stitch in time, added another thread to my passions. We all need them to drive us, and we have to keep at them to stay sane. Our children will thank us, eventually, for it.
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker.