The Deadline

It always starts the same.  You know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it by.  Somehow, though, you don’t quite begin as you should.  Or you begin with voracity, flaring up bright and burning hot, but quickly fading.  Yet somehow it’s inevitable, that as the deadline approaches you find the fuel you need to burn brighter and hotter than ever before, like you just drank some elixir of adrenaline and steroids and the normally solemn hours between midnight and dawn become your rallying cry, and the hands of the clock carry you on their shoulders across the finish line.  It’s exhilarating.  And exhausting.

Over lunch with a friend, we chatted about life and work and fatherhood.  His kids are all older than mine and I asked what it’s like to have kids in their teens?  His analogy was profound.  His background in the graphics art field for magazines must have been on his mind.  I didn’t immediately connect the dots with his sentence until he explained that having kids who are older made him better.  Enhanced his performance.  Made him more purposeful.

“It’s like you’re getting close to your deadline.”

My own dad backed off during my teen years.  And what I mistook as him being uncaring or disinterested I later learned was him giving us boys what he thought was best.  Doesn’t every parent struggle to do what they think is best and then are forced to live with the consequences.  His logic made sense after he explained it.  I was a young man, and he wanted me to know that he trusted me.  So he gave me my freedom.  A very hard thing for a parent to do.

But Chris sat across from me that afternoon explaining how the deadline loomed and he wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities he could.  He admitted that his sense of regret was profound.  Although his regrets weren’t even over what I thought they would be for.  They weren’t over what he wished he had done ten years ago when they were tiny, young and pliable but over the missed opportunities he saw now, every day.

He also confessed that it’s not really a hard deadline, like when they turn eighteen.  In fact, he pointed out that I was up against some deadlines myself even at my kids young ages.  Because my relationship with them would certainly change as they got older.  I knew this already, of course, but somehow it clicked.  And then all at once it set in.  The enormous task of being a father overwhelmed me, because the whole goal is to provide a foundation for your kids to eventually grow in and make their own, which will guide them through the rest of life.  At this point in my life though so much of what I thought was strong and sure feels shaky and weak.

How could I be facing such an important deadline and yet not have enough time to work on my own foundation?

I needed more time.  I need time to work through what internally I’m battling with about life.  I need to be able to get away and think, to focus and reason and conclude.  To rebuild some of what has broken over the years.  But time marches on and I’m not given that chance.  Instead, my role as father becomes more challenging because I have to build their foundation from scratch while simultaneously repairing and mending my own.  The more I sat in that afternoon breeze, the keener my sense of regret became, though there was little I could do to change any of that at the moment.  I am who I am.  And some things just take time.

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5 Replies to “The Deadline”

  1. Lee,

    I think the hardest thing about being a father is realizing from the moment we have a child we are working towards letting them go. Every action we ever do builds towards that inevitable day of allowing them to become the adults they need to be.

    I try to set a goal for myself to let my son grow up and experience as much of life as he possibly can. My hope is that someday he will want to come home to visit and not be forced to come home and visit (does that make sense?)

    In my opinion, as men, we should be growing and changing until the day we die. We learn about the world around us through our children, our family and our friends and everything in between. It is through the constant evolvement of ourselves that we become better fathers, husbands and men.

    Just my two cents but I think your on the right track…..

    Aaron

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    1. Right. I agree we always need to be evolving as men. My bet is that you are in a place though where you feel pretty comfortable with who you are and that your basic foundation is pretty sure?

      I’ve been kind of going through a shaking up of my foundation that has me feeling the pressure of the deadlines of fatherhood and wishing I could call a time out just to get things straight in my head. I can’t. And that just another added challenge to being a dad. Kids don’t wait to grow up until we have it all figured out.

      I’ll probably figure it out as soon as they leave.

      Know what I mean?

      Lee

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      1. I can put on a good show like any guy but truthfully I am no more sure about what I am doing as dad than you are. I have had time to work on things that are broken in my my life and I am going to tell you how I fixed them. i am not saying this is your answer but I will tell you what worked for me. Over the years I have found many things that I could be unhappy about….not enough time, money, friends, myself….you name it I have found it.

        I have wasted a lot of time worrying and stressing about things that were in my control and out of my control. I woke up one day and I decided I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I made a conscious decision to choose happiness. It is something I control 100%… no one and nothing controls my happiness but me. I refuse to give others that power ever again.

        I figured out i was giving away my happiness to other people. When I would do that I became powerless and unhappy. The days would go on and I became bitter and I would be faced with regrets over and over.

        Now though…I choose to make the most of everyday. I make an effort to live in the here and now and see the people around me for who they are not who I want them to be. I try to respect everyone and their opinions and value everything. I try to be happy because the alternative is misery. I hope this helps some….I am more than happy to talk about it if you want to know more…

        Aaron

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