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The acoustic guitar gathering dust on a stand in my guest bedroom is a reminder that there will be a day where I’ll get back to my dreams again. For the time being, though, I’ll be a good dad.
When I used to look at that guitar, my mind would be full of regret. I’d immediately catalog the dusty 6-string into the pile of intentions indefinitely postponed by fatherhood. My focus has to be on my family. There is little time to act on a suppressed passion right now. For me, that means that my 10-year-old will be taking guitar lessons long before I will.
These fatherhood-related dream delays previously bothered me.
As I write this, I can recognize a number of times when I haven’t been at my best as a father – mostly because I was focused on what I was giving up versus the good fortune I’d been given.
One specific instance comes to mind. My wife told me we were expecting our fifth baby just over a year ago and my reaction was a blank slate. I had turned my focus away from the “baby chapter” of my life and was squarely focused on getting rid of a diaper bag for good – and I was so close. Instead of meeting the news with joy, I retreated into a cocoon of silence for at least 24 hours. I was admittedly (and now embarrassingly) sad, disappointed and filled with regret. I thought of all sorts of things my family would have to give up when the next baby arrived – writing off the prospect of going on vacations and thinking about the need to buy a bigger home.
I’d immediately catalog the dusty 6-string into the pile of intentions indefinitely postponed by fatherhood.
My mind immediately thought of forever dismissing the idea of paying for my kids’ college education or saving for an early retirement. Snapping out of that funk took time – too much time. Holding onto the regrets due to fatherhood dream-delays didn’t allow me to be at my best.
Tonight, as I put my bouncy 7-month-old daughter to bed, my mindset is different. I’m trying to relish each day’s milestone. I’ve stopped looking forward to the next rite of passage as a signal that the baby stage is closer to ending. I’m not thinking about the nuisance of overnight feedings as much as I am about the bath-time giggles.
My up-tight, orderly disposition did not allow me to enjoy previous baby stages as much with my other children. I was a good dad, but I always wished it away. I’m glad that I finally have learned my lesson.
Life with 5 young kids is not all peaches and cream. Like most dads, there are times when I’d love to pick up the sticks for a quick 9 holes more often. Of course, I’d love to pull the covers over my head to block out the Saturday morning, 6 AM living room track meet from time-to-time.
Being at my best for my kids’ means that those thoughts, like the regrets of my postponed dreams, are fleeting but not gone – and that’s okay. I’ll revisit those postponed dreams someday. One day I’ll pick up that out-of-tune, relic guitar and strum a perfect “C” chord.
When I do, my dreams will no longer be of a solo act. I’ll be part of a 7-piece band that would make the Osmond’s proud. Until that day, though, I’ll pass by that undisturbed 6-string and take pride in the dust it is collecting as my kids grow.
Tobin is a husband and father of 5. Tobin’s rambunctious family life provides ample opportunities for thoughtful pieces about fatherhood. Check out his writing at goodbaddad.com.