You Get One Shot At This, Dad

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This isn’t just for dads, of course. It’s for parents.

This one has been on my mind for a while. I thought better of it because I fear it will come across as preachy, but after having lunch with two great friends the other day, I was encouraged to go ahead with it.

If you’re a parent, you’ll know that time marches on more quickly than ever before once your babies arrive. And if you have more than one, you’ll likely agree with me that time flies even faster as you have more kids.

You barely take a breath, turn around, and a year or two have passed. That’s life. There’s no changing it.

I recently had an extended chat with a fellow who is a parent. And not a great one. To his credit, he is aware of this and admits to being a dad that, in his words, “sucks”. What struck me as the saddest part of our conversation wasn’t that he had a long way to go in terms of pulling up his socks and taking responsibility and being a dad to his kids.

Nope, that wasn’t the worst part. What really got me was that he continuously gave me the impression that he would somehow, one day, be able to climb up some giant life-clock and be able to crank back the time. That he would be given the opportunity to start over and do it right.

That’s what bothered me the most. Because we can’t. We can’t ever turn back time on our parenting.

You can’t ever take back things you’ve done or said. They will forever ring in the ears of our children, whether it’s good or it’s bad.

You can’t ever start over. You won’t have the opportunity to wipe that slate clean. There is no tabula rasa in parenthood.

Sure, you can make a monumental effort to shift the way you do things. You can try to do things better. And that’s awesome.

But you’ll never, ever have more than one chance to make a difference for each kid you’ve been blessed with. You will NOT be given an opportunity to try it again. Never again will they be the kid they are today.

And guess what? As fast as time seems to be cruising by, it’s actually probably passing you by even quicker than you think. Use it wisely.

Please don’t put things that are of very little consequence ahead of your babies. Don’t watch that TV show when your kid is sitting there waiting for you to play ANYthing with them. Don’t read whatever you think you want to read when your kid is standing there, holding a book for you to read WITH THEM. Don’t do all those things you want to do for yourself because, in the end, not a single one of them is as important as the time you will take with your child.

Does this sound extreme? Probably. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take time for yourself, for your partner, for your needs and your wants. Of course we all need these things to stay sane.

But I hope you’ll look to your kids’ needs and wants. And put them ahead of your own. You’ll have plenty of time left over once they’re gone.

But you get only ONE chance at being a dad or a mom to your child. You won’t be allowed to try it again. You’ll be left with a void, a gap where you could have done something for or with your little one. And sadly, those are gaps in life we will never be able to go back and fill.

I’m far from perfect, and there are days where I’ve simply had enough. There are days when I honestly don’t want to read one more stupid Berenstain Bears book, and when I can’t drive Thomas the Freakin’ Train around his track one more time, and when I don’t want to see or hear one more minute of my daughters’ “performances” or go out and play with SnowStompers in the snow one more time.

But those are the days that matter the most. Those are the days where I pray for strength to do just those things, because somehow I know those are the days that will matter the most to my kids. They will register the times when we tell them to take a hike and go and play on their own. But more importantly, they’ll register those times when we sighed, put down our “important” stuff, and just hung out with them. And listened to them. And played with them. And loved them by spending our most important asset on them – our time.

You will never, ever have a chance to go back and do it again. And I guarantee that you will spend time looking back on your life, wishing you had done more. I’m guessing the best parents in the world look back and wish they had done more. I can say that I’ve spent more than a few moments, hanging my proverbial head in shame, wishing I had done more. Wishing I’d taken that moment with my kid.

I’m glad I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me to try to get it as right as possible, and I’m hoping that, when it becomes crystal clear that I only had one shot at this, I won’t be saddled with a lifetime of regret. 

Don’t worry – the day will come where they won’t need something from you. And that might not be quite as awesome as you think it will be.

Each day, you get one chance for each kid. That’s all we have. Let’s give our little people everything they need. For as many years as they need us.

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