It was a Friday evening toward the end of summer. The sun was not quite setting, but was on its way there shortly, the sky a pinkish hue dotted with scattered cotton balls of clouds. I decided that if there was a chance to get the lawn mowed before a weekend of forecasted rain, this was going to be it. I was working my way through the farthest part of our backyard, around, in and out of thorny bushes, careful to use my arm like the world-famous Elongated Man as much as I could, stretching outward with the mower to get into those hard to reach spaces without coming into contact with the poison thorns that border the back of the yard. I moved around the shed into the challenging space under a large pine tree, the terrain becoming an obstacle course of roots that if not maneuvered correctly could leave me needing a new mower blade. It wouldn’t be the first time. Blurred by the sound of my own machine, the roar of another mower engine was drawing closer. I spotted one of our neighbors also mowing. I smiled, waved, shouting over the growl of dual engines, “A good night for it!”
He pulled down the headphones from his head and smiled, turning off his mower.
“Can I ask you a question?” he asked.
“Of course. Hopefully I’ve got a decent answer,” I reply, thinking I’m funny but knowing I’m not.
“You’ve got three kids,” he says. “We just had our second a few weeks ago. Any advice?”
I was on the spot. What was I to say? A weary father of a newborn looking to ME for guidance? Does this make me an adult? I can’t possibly be an adult. I’m still just a kid trying to figure out what the heck is going on in life all the time.
I breathed. Well, really, I smiled and chuckled, but at the same time I was sort of breathing that nervous sigh of hope that I don’t mess this up and tell this young man the wrong thing.
I thought for a moment and told him what I’m about to tell you, dear reader.
Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself when you can’t accomplish all the things you could before. Because you’re in a different phase now. And in that phase, the most important thing you can do is spend time with the kids while they’re kids. You’ll never regret it. Every house project, every “plan,” – you’ll get to it when you can. But if it’s not on the same timetable it was with one kid, or no kids, don’t beat yourself up. Your timetables have changed and that’s okay.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Whether you’ve heard it from John Lennon’s 1980 song Beautiful Boy, or traced it back to Allen Saunders in a 1957 issue of Reader’s Digest, it could not be more accurate. And the older we get, the more our attention and our time is called toward those who need us, the more we need to remember these words.
Heck, depending on how often you’ve read my ramblings here, you’ve probably noticed the large gaps in between as the years have gone on. The kids get older and time seems to become more and more of a precious commodity. Parenthood has been busy enough that finding the time to write about it just hasn’t been in the cards as much. And that’s okay. I’m cool with that.
For one person, maybe it’s writing a blog post or making a video. For someone else, maybe you don’t have the creative output you once did and it takes you a lot longer to piece that passion project together. Or maybe that house project or room you’ve been working on isn’t going to get done as quickly as it may have a decade ago. Or maybe it’s any number of things.
It is okay. YOU are okay. You aren’t who you were 5, 10, 20 years ago and you can’t expect to have the same speed or output you did then, because things are different. Not bad, just different. Some things need to take a back seat, and in no way is a reflection on you. Don’t tie the you of now (or the output of the you of now) to the you of then. Forgive yourself. Because there’s other things in life right now that need to take the front seat, that need you there more than those projects need you. So buckle in and enjoy the ride while it’s here.
If I’ve taken anything away from the past few years and the upheaval the world underwent, it was that so much of what we stressed about, laid so much pressure and importance on, wasn’t that important after all. What matters most of all is that time, that precious time that we get with those we care about. Anything else – it’s gravy.
Sure, we had plans. And we’ll get to them, or we’ll adjust them. The ones that truly matter anyway.