Apr. 23rd, 2017

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Just a scant couple of weeks before signing up with LiveJournal in 2000, I responded to an online question posed by InfoRocket.com, to wit: What do I wish I'd done differently as a father?

I ran across a printout of my answer during today's session at the Webster house.
What do I wish I’d done differently as a father?

I wish I had “walked the talk.”

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not as though there was complete mismatch between what I said I believed and what I did as a father, but in one seemingly innocent particular, the gulf between what I thought and what I did is something I will regret for the rest of my life. For as much as I maintained and believed that my family came first among my life’s priorities, I allowed other things—chief among them my career—to steal an hour here and a weekend there until now, both kids are out of the house and in the world. And it’s only now, after they've left, that I realize that the kudos (which matter to nobody, so many years later) and the cash (all of which has been spent) were not worth the effort it took to earn them, compared to what I gave up in return.

It’s not as though I hadn’t been forewarned. Harry Chapin focused a lyrical spotlight on this question with his popular song Cat’s in the Cradle:
A child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way,
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay,
He learned to walk while I was away.


‘When’re you cornin’ home, Dad?’
‘I don’t know when,’
‘But we’ll get together then.’
‘You know we’ll have a good time then.’
We, who heard it at the height of its popularity, understood the song instinctively and knew with certainty that it described someone else; that we would not ever be the “Dad” in that song.

What went wrong? I think the “planned” professional part of my life carried over to fill the void in the “unplanned” personal part. The absence of specific personal goals left only the intuitive feeling that I had to go... “thataway,” in the direction of greater job responsibilities, more overtime, and concomitantly larger paychecks. My personal life—understood only as a vague generality—was something that I could (and did) put off just a little bit longer, until I realized that my time as a father had largely run out.

Reading Hyrum Smith’s Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management was an epiphany for me (this is not an ad; I don’t work for Smith, etc.). It allowed me to view time management not as a method of getting more and more work done in a given quantity of time, but as a method of achieving goals that are important to me.

My life is changing, because I know what I want and what steps to take to get what I want. And even if that changes, at least I know about it and have some control over it.

However, there’s nothing to be done for time lost. There is only the future. I intend to make the most of it.

In the meantime, you might want to ask yourself whether you “walk your talk.” The answer may surprise you.



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