I’m a hurried parent.
I hurry to the store to shop for this week’s groceries.
I rush through dinner because the lawn needs mowed.
I hastily plow through my kids’ school work because tonight is bath night.
Bath time is all business as the kids’ bedtime looms.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m a hurried worker too. I rush to work in the morning only to barrel home in the evening. After all, there is no time to waste – I have to get to the store so that I can cut the grass in enough time to get the kids’ washed up and in bed.
That’s how the routine goes today – and tomorrow – and on and on.
The daily rush is killing this Good-Bad Dad.
From the outside looking in, my hurry yields good results – my house is usually clean, we’re caught up with laundry and my wife or I are at all of my kids’ activities.
On the inside, though, I bear the cost of the constant hurry – the daily feeling of regret for having passed through today without being fully present during any of it. I hate the thought of having rushed (and worried) so much that I’ve ignored my ultimate fatherly duty – the mission to raise productive, passion-filled kids fit to be leaders in their community.
There would seem to be an easy fix – just slow down. Why isn’t it just that easy?
I think about that question often as my day winds down and I’m able to quiet my mind.
For me, it’s not a matter of doing less – the simple fact is that my to-do list is growing and will always need attention. I can’t do less so I have to do as much, differently.
So much of my hurry really boils down to being scared that if left undone, my responsibilities would cost my children in some way.
If I can’t get Lynden to soccer practice, will that cost him a starting spot?
If Viviana’s favorite outfit isn’t washed, will she be upset in the morning?
If we don’t rush to get the kids to bed, will they be tired at school and cost themselves their Ivy League future?
The answer to every one of these thoughts is likely “no” – telling me that being in a hurry because of them is misguided and just plain wasteful.
I can think back to a baseball coach that once told me that action spawned by fear is like playing a game not to lose rather than to win – often a recipe for failure.
My daily hurrying may very well be parenting not to lose – an unfulfilling path to missing out on what really matters. If I parent this way, I continue to be so worried about what remains to be done that I’m disengaged with what I’m doing.
I should be parenting to win.
For me, that means accepting that I have a lot to do without having that awareness cloud the time I’m spending with my family. My focus should be on the ultimate victory – sending passion-filled kids into the world (and, as notably, without killing my own passions in the endeavor).
In practice, parenting to win means that I don’t worry about the long grass I’m standing in as I toss the wiffle ball to my awaiting, impatient 3 year-old. Or, by not allowing my mind to drift to thinking about what’s for dinner as my son tells me about his day at camp.
Dinner can wait and so can cutting the grass. Unburdened time with my kids, however, cannot.