Parents

A Parenting New Year's Resolution Worth Making

Live this way and you won’t have the mid-50s angst and regret.

I try not to ask stupid typical questions or give typical stupid answers because, well, they’re stupid. So I have a tendency to utterly flip out when I hear people say, “Time flies ― it seemed so fast! The years just fly by!”

No. No they do not. They take the exact same amount of time as all years.

When people say crap like, “Kids grow up so fast!” they’re engaging in selective memory. It only seems fast because they missed 90 percent of the experience. Which is pretty much what people do: rush through life hurrying to get to something else.

At age 27 (about 25 years ago for anyone keeping score), I quit work and I did so for one very specific reason: I was insane.

Actually (additionally?) the real reason I literally packed up my desk and walked away from my career was simpler and much more altruistic: I wanted to be a good dad. My son was born when I was 25; by his first birthday it was becoming clear his mother was not going to be part of the picture much longer – and she wasn’t. She has been circling the Crazy Acres Airport ever since looking for a place to land.

A Random, Life-Changing Grocery Store Encounter

Six weeks after my son was born, he went to daycare, like most of us. I’d drop him off in the morning and then go do something stupid all day long while other people bonded with him, then pick him up and take him home and hope to squeeze in some quality time before I had to tuck him back in bed and start the whole tilt-a-whirl over again.

One evening I picked him up and we stopped by the grocery to grab dinner. He was 2, and an adorable 2. We had just come through the door and were grabbing a cart when he saw one of the ladies from the daycare center. He ran to her – ‘’Miss Linda Miss Linda Miss Linda!” – and jumped into her arms.

Now I was very glad to have clear confirmation that I’d picked a good daycare center. But I also stood there thinking, “There’s something wrong with this picture.”

I decided on the spot to change things up. I walked away from a job as a news editor and became a home-based freelance writer. It was a struggle but I made it work. The fact that I got lucky and landed a syndicated newspaper column with The Chicago Tribune two years later that I wrote from home for the next 19 years was the ultimate payoff.

I know not everyone can do that. I get it. I caught lightning in a bottle and I knew it and I still know it.

But what you can do is be more mindful. Be more present. Save part of you for you. Find work you can at least generate a little enthusiasm for if not be downright passionate about. If any part of your day regularly involves phrases like, “Those candies aren’t going to crush themselves…” or “Wow, these birds really are angry…” then you need to change things up. Not only will you be a happier/better person, it will make you a happier/better parent. People who are engaged in and enjoying life raise kids who do the same.

And if there’s any way you ever get a chance to take control of your own life and time, do it and don’t look back. Time will move, but it will not fly.

Patience Means Appreciating What’s Good Now…

A big part of making that happen is making sure you actually see time go by – don’t just park your kids in front of the TV. You have to do that sometimes for your own sanity, but being there is the biggest part of it all. And honestly the most fun. When it gets tough, remember that patience is the ability to appreciate the good things in your life while you’re waiting for the better things to come. Live that way and you won’t have the mid-50s angst and regret you see in all the people you’re afraid you’ll become.

There are periods of your life when time really does fly – mostly those really, hyper-stressed out times, like when you’re in a crap job situation or bad relationship you know you need to change up but just can’t seem to make any progress. You’re miserable all day, it hangs around you like B.O., it seems like there’s always something – a kid, a party, a pet monkey – clamoring for your time and always something you have to do right this damn minute when all you really want to do is sit down on the couch and maybe cry.

That’s when you look up and realize you’ve just wasted another eight months dealing with something you hate and something you promised you wouldn’t be dealing with by now. That’s when you know it’s time to try to grab life by the goozle and try to make it work for you instead of the other way around. Fortune favors the bold.

Time will pass and you will one day miss what was today. But it won’t fly. And you’ll never regret the investments you made in doing your best to slow it down.