I have a friend – a mother – who runs marathons. And throughout the course, there are water stations so that she can get a quick refresher for the next leg. This is a great metaphor for raising a family.
Raising children is a marathon and each child is a slightly different course. Most have a mix of up- and downhills; a few are strictly uphill and a rare number are downhill. And that’s why you have to grab the watercup whenever and wherever you can since you have to be able to finish the race.
Hobbies are helpful, or some activity that takes you away for a short while. But you have to stay on that course for the duration even when you’re worn down by the constant questions, occasional idiocy and sometimes raging egocentrism of the typical kid.
I’ve been there.
- Carried a screaming child like a sack of potatoes from a grocery store? Check.
- Walked into my room and punched out the dresser? Check.
- Said goodbye to my wife as she pulled into the driveway while I pulled out? Check.
- Announced to the family that I was resigning? Check.
- Yelled at one or more children, rightfully? Check.
- Wrongfully? Check.
You’ll have paternal side-stitches and parental shin-splints from the run. But after your water, you have to stay on the course.
The absolute greatest gift that you can give your child is your time, and I believe that most children would rather have time with their father than any thing. So you’re going to have to understand that the egocentrism is part of their young nature and must be balanced by your own selflessness; your rules will be tested because that’s what they do; you’ll be questioned continuously, and be glad if they do because you can be relatively certain that the answer’s correct.
So have the hobby but don’t let it have you. You can always take classes later, read that bestseller or catch that movie on DVD. Remember that you cannot regain the time lost with that child. There is only this one opportunity to raise this child well and there are no mulligans or do-overs. You cannot turn the clock back to when they were toddlers or primary graders. This is the marathon, so grab the cup but stay in the race. You cannot run this course again.