On a normal night, I collect my thoughts after my kids are finally asleep – when I’ve reached the finish line of my daily, parenting marathon.
When I sink into the comfort of the couch and embrace the now quiet living room, I have three thoughts in this order:
Thought 1: About today
My first thoughts are always about assessing the craziness that pulls me in so many directions each day.
Some days, my first thoughts are great. I think about the compliment a teacher paid to my son for being kind to a classmate, or smile when I remember my toddler yelling, “That’s what I’m talking about!” while learning to drop-kick a soccer ball in the driveway.
Other days, my first thoughts are of lost opportunities – a time to reflect on hustling so much today that I can’t remember any of it. I regret that too many days are blurry and lost.
Thought 2: Looking toward tomorrow
My mind quickly shifts from today toward tomorrow – focusing my second thoughts on the adventures that lie ahead.
At times, I think purely tactically – planning tomorrow’s logistics of simultaneous soccer and swimming practices, or determining if I have enough peanut butter to pack sack lunches in the morning.
Some days, these secondary thoughts are more of an internal pep talk – particularly when my first thoughts spotlight today’s disappointments. I’ll try to convince myself that tomorrow will be better – that I will be up for the challenge.
Most nights, it would be easy to stop here – I’m exhausted, it’s late, I have a rest up for tomorrow’s uncertain, impending adventure.
I try not to take the easy route. My goal is to resist the urge to end my day after thought #2. When I push through, something uncanny happens – I don’t think about my kids’ needs anymore. For the first time all day, I think of my own.
I become more than a doting dad and adoring husband, I become just me once again.
Thought 3: My One Non-Dad Thing
I try to make it to my third thought most nights. I need to – thinking about the non-dad me helps me work out of any parenting rut. My third thoughts transform me from a routine-driven, check-writing, lunch-making, chauffeur-dad into a starry-eyed, aspiring author.
Writing is my one thing – a passion that belongs to only me, a selfish endeavor that helps me escape today’s reflection and ignore tomorrow’s grind. Writing dominates my third thoughts.
I lived in absence of such passion-filled, third thoughts for a long time. During those periods, I was a less engaged husband and father.
For me, a life devoid of such thoughts is an existence stuck in neutral – a “just-get-through-the-day” mentality that is ultimately unfair for my family, and not fulfilling to me.
Searching for, finding and embracing the third thoughts that lead to selfish passions has changed me. I’m a better dad, husband, colleague and friend.
I’m me again.
I was beginning to miss the guy I used to be and, I would venture to guess that my family was too.
Despite the fact that I may not get to my selfish endeavors tonight or even tomorrow, they still do exist. That acknowledgment helps harness the energy needed to get through the daily trials of being a parent.
My passions don’t distract my parenting – they make me better.
I’ve found my one non-parenting thing – have you?