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In the car yesterday, Casey and Cole were lamenting the fact that the summer camp they’ve gone to for the past two summers is not holding its usual sleepaway session this year.
As I drove we talked about the things they loved about the camp – the curriculum, the small size, the chance to learn more about music and to bond with friends and each other, away from the withering gaze of their parents.
Seizing the moment I thought it was time to drop a little Good Enough Mother wisdom on the kids pertaining to the windows that open and close throughout our lives. You know what I’m talking about; the chance to backpack through Europe, to go braless outside of your own bedroom, to read the Sunday Times actually on a Sunday or to stay in bed all day with your mate, conscious of no one’s hunger pangs but your own (By the way, for me, every single one of those windows is not only closed, but also nailed down, boarded up and the sills covered with lead-based paint).
I was telling Casey and Cole that even if they had the camp next year, they would be in a different place. Not physically so much because of course, they’ll still be in our home. But mentally and emotionally they’ll be different. Maybe they’ll have new friends and interests; maybe they won’t want to go back, even if they could.
I was thinking about that conversation when I read this piece in which a Florida father outlines the things he regrets about being a dad – and there are many.
It’s not that he doesn’t love his kids; it’s clear he vows to be the best dad around. But in the article the dad outlines all of the things he had to give up when his children, 4 and 1, came along; playing ball with the boys, golf on the weekend and working on his Masters to name just a few. I even heard a twinge of sadness when he talked about his wife and her utter devotion to the kids. I know some people might read the piece and think, “How SELFISH!” and they would be right. But what’s wrong with that? The fact is life changes, people change, relationships change and you have two choices, to look back fondly – or with deep regret. In listening to this father, I hear regret now but I don’t think he will feel that way forever…
See, right now, the poor guy is sleep-deprived. Anyone who’s ever had a newborn in the home knows that kind of fatigue is otherworldly. His children are small and needy. And demanding because they don’t know to be any other way. I’m dying to tell this guy how my kids used to be the same way. Now I have to use the Jaws of Life to extract them from their rooms.
And lastly I would urge him to remember Good Enough Mother’s motto; your dreams and goals don’t have to die just so others’ may live. He can still pursue the Master’s degree, golf on Sunday, hang with the guys, get away for long weekends with his wife, in fact he’d BETTER. Because in feeding that part of himself he will be fulfilled and a fulfilled parent is a happy one; better equipped to do their job.
Of course, it’s not going to be EXACTLY the same; he won’t be able to jet off on a business trip without making plans that would make troop movements in Afghanistan look like child’s play. And the crazy part is that when he is gone, he’ll be amazed at how his mind is THERE; lying on the floor with his toddlers crawling over him, the intoxicating feeling of having small hands draw you in for a kiss or having your heart expand three sizes when they say, “You are the best dad” because you replaced the batteries in Thomas the Tank Engine.
Florida father may still have a twinge here and there but I suspect, like Casey and Cole and summer camp, he’ll soon be able to look back fondly. After he gets some sleep.
But what about you, can you relate to what this Florida father is saying? Have you ever felt the same way; that a window was closed, never to open again? What are the things you miss about not having kids?
Start those comments coming…