Monday, July 23, 2012

Am I Afraid?

Hello friends and family,

What are the key drivers of my decision making process as a father?  Do I do parenting this way because I'm afraid?  Fear implies a level of uncertainty, but I am absolutely certain of my purpose at this point in my life.  

My personality includes an insatiable appetite for continuous improvement.  I'm always asking questions of myself to identify "better" and then adjust accordingly.  I can be a better listener, better father, better time manager, better...  whatever.  You name it and I've probably done some sort of analysis to determine HOW to be better.  All things can improve and as we go through life every person does improve.  A key difference between people is what each one chooses to improve.

Some people are "better" at determining which bachelor will be chosen this season or which horse will win the Kentucky Derby.  There is no eternal value or personal benefit.  Even if there was value, certain times in life make more sense to pursue them.  Honing this type of skill is not as useful as understanding Easton and Layla's needs and desires.  For example, when I was single with a college degree and no wife or kids I played basketball for a couple of hours almost every night with my best friend.  Ah, the good ole' days!  Likewise, when Easton and Layla are teenagers Kendra and I can take up swing dancing every Friday night.  The time before parenting young kids and the time after our role lightens up are the appropriate time for these things, but not now.  

I am shocked when I consider how few minutes per day the twins will spend with us after they turn 16 and get their vehicular independence.  The shock comes from the fact that we have roughly 12 more years to teach and train and grow Easton and Layla.  I love them now and will love them then, but after they become independent all I will have is love and a few brief hours of family time occasionally.

The two words "intentional parenting" answer the question I analyzed about fear.  I don't practice intentional parenting on a daily basis out of fear, but because I understand very clearly what it takes not to be "that guy".  You know, the dad who spends thousands of hours playing video games or on the golf course every other day...  that guy.  The guy who spends thousands of dollars on his own toys or habits, but doesn't have money to buy sports equipment or school supplies for his kid.  I don't ever want to be "that guy".  My desire is to learn by observation from other's mistakes so I avoid them.  I don't have to touch the stove to learn it will burn me.  That is wisdom, in my opinion.  Wisdom is NOT living life and then looking back to identify where I wasted my time, talents and treasure.  Wisdom is using my time, talents, and treasures right now, today, to the best of my abilities.

We all strive for significance and in death the truth is revealed.  If the only thing people say about me when I'm dead is, "He was a good man", then I will have failed.  If people say, "He was the best father I ever knew" then my mission is accomplished.  I intentionally parent Easton and Layla for their benefit, not to impress others.  However, I know others are watching and form perceptions of me whether I like it or not.  This is a picture from last year I look at often because it portrays what I consider to be essential elements of what it means to be a good father:  Spending quality and quantity time down on their level giving affection and attention. 

The song by Phil Vassar titled, "Don't Miss Your Life" is my personal anthem. I'm so glad song writers like him exist because I struggle to express my inner most thoughts with such clarity.  

Some of the key lyrics are:

Hold on tight 'cause it don't happen twice
Fame and fortune come with a  heavy price
I made a ton of money and I climbed up the ladder
Yeah, I was supper man, but now what does it matter
I heard some words that hit me hard tonight
He said, "don't miss your life"

I am very capable of climbing the corporate ladder to a higher rung or running a successful business on my own, but at what cost?  What is the true opportunity cost of my personal success?  Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone that is not chosen.  Easton and Layla's formative years are "the next best alternative" to my own personal desires.  My roles in life ebb and flow.  Right now being the best father possible is the most important role I have, right behind being a husband.  

I don't always succeed, but in general this is my order of importance and priority:

Easton and Layla

Oder determines capacity!  When I get the priority right, life is richer and smoother.  If I'm ever forced to make a choice between any two of these priorities, I will diligently live by this order.  Very simple to list not so simple to live.

When Easton and Layla get out of high school I will not be judged based on my intentions.  Easton and Layla will judge me according to my intentional parenting, on which I am focused more than anything else I've ever done in my life.  There is no such thing as a perfect person or perfect parent and my life is testament to this.  I'm simply doing the best I possibly can today given my finite number of hours in the day and then tomorrow I'll choose to do it again.  

Am I afraid?  NO!  I've been given time, knowledge, authority, responsibility, and opportunity to carry out my purpose as a father.  There is nothing to be afraid of.   
See you soon!

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