Life is a spaceship. Here are a few introspective thoughts I cobbled together about the state of being a parent with responsibilities.
Being a father, a dad, is a journey I can’t believe I’m taking. Read on for my take about the challenge of making daily choices as a parent.
You’re hurtling through emptiness in spaceship.
In the black….
This is it. You’re a parent now.
How do you like it?
You trapped on board a metal capsule with no rudders and all thrusters burning. For 18 years or more (depending on your legal definition of “adult”), you travel in one direction.
A black hole, or the Sun. Maybe paradise; who knows?
Of course, this isn’t actually just about parenthood.
This journey is all of us.
Yup, this is you. And me.
Each on our private, exclusive spaceship, on a sojourn to who-knows where.
Some spaceships are clean; the floors and bunks are spotless. Books sit neatly on shelves and dishes are stowed away.
In other spaceships, it’s cluttered. Paper strewn everywhere; diapers, oh god, diapers. Disheveled things. And, the wires behind the TV from all the different peripherals are a veritable Gordian knot.
No matter what the spaceship’s condition, you are its Captain.
And, you go down with the ship.
So, I’m trying to get some work done at home….
This is the worst sound I hear when I’m deep-focused on work in my home office.
“Daddy, play with me!” my daughter cries.
Laughter. Crazed laughter.
That is me, in my head as I grapple with the guilt-ridden decision to keep working, and ignore her.
I don’t. Not really.
“Just five minutes, ” I respond, pleading she’ll understand…
“Play with me!”
Oh, it never ends. This poor child, my toddler girl, who knows nothing about the hardships that await her through the house’s front door. The struggles of adulthood, and the responsibilities of making sure that the roof metaphorically doesn’t cave-in.
She patters off into another room.
I breath a sigh of relief…
The work I’m doing at my desk, typing a few words in an email, is heart-wrenching. Not the words, but me.
I’m broken a little. I wonder if in that moment I made the right decision.
A part of me feels the need to finish this task, but there is another emotion that rips at the logic. It says, go play with your daughter.
One day she will leave. She’ll leave the warm home I’ve worked so hard to provide.
But, did I have to work that hard?
“And, when you’re old,” I say to myself, “you’ll be the one saying ‘Daughter, when will you come see me?‘”
Do you feel your “mortality”?
I do, somedays.
Your spaceship hurtles ever forward….
It’s normal you know. This feeling of being chased.
Time is an enemy. It haunts you. Follows you.
And, yet, you can’t live without the mindset of Time. You always want more Time.
If you’re a miniature painter or tabletop gamer, or simply a hobbyist of any kind, you already know how much time it takes to get really immersed. Half a day, maybe less, but at the very least, a few hours of freedom would be great. Fantastic.
A average human lifespan is about 700,000 hours (source).
Every day that passes is one less tock on the falling hammer.
Your heartbeats 70 times per minute. Each thump is one less you have from the day you’re born.
We fight the clock with medicine, health and wellness, but these are merely flailing arms; hand-waving to nobody in particular.
One day, as you cross the street, a proverbial bus will hit you in the face.
I think the first way to take sting out of feeling the blahs with this inevitable end, is to accept it.
Don’t deny it.
Embrace your mortality.
Sure you can keep your fists bunched up, but it’s a lot easier to start with a warm hug around the Truth.
Why is admitting defeat with a young child liberating?
Bedtime in my household is existential chit-chat time with my young daughter.
(Or maybe, really it’s just me indulging her imagination with my own)
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”– J.K. Rowling (Book author of the Harry Potter Series)
My daughter asked me if she could go to outer space.
Indeed, my toddler, barely out of the crib into walking shoes is asking if she can fly beyond the gravity of Earth.
To slip the “…surly bonds of Earth…” as Ronald Reagan (former 40th US President) once said during a televised address to the Nation following the tragedy of the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster.
My daughter wanted to escape Earth.
Maybe, I’m over-reading what she said to me that night.
Of course, I am! I’m sleep deprived, hyped on coffee, and painting miniatures.
But, her wanting to fly into outer space tickled a deeper desire in me, too.
Let’s face it. I admit I wanted to fly up there, too.
To boldly go where no man has gone before.
“Can I got to outer space?” my daughter asked. “I want to go.”
All sorts of answers came to mind about why she can’t go into outer space:
- No, it’s too dangerous
- Mommy and daddy will miss you
- You need to become an astronaut first (which is a lot more school)
I know talks like this with her at bedtime is a losing situation (for me).
Trying to have a logical back-and-forth doesn’t work with the young ones. They don’t see the Universe like we adults do.
It’s a series of questions that lead to more questions.
In fact, getting her to sleep takes forever.
It was late after all.
And, by attrition she wins every night when she asks me something like “can I go to outer space?”.
The way I win these kinds of discussions with my young daughter is to admit defeat.
“Yes, you can go to outer space,” I answer.
“Okay, daddy, ” is always her response.
She wins, because I surrendered to the possibility that she could, in fact, go to outer space one day.
Who am I to say that in ten or twenty years from now, we as a human race, will be traveling into space as routinely as we drive to the supermarket?
This is humility.
Admitting that my adult brain, despite all my intuition and instinct of what is possible (or not), is totally wrong.
I admit I could be wrong.
And, I’ll admit that certain things may be True, despite all physical evidence to the contrary.
That is why admitting defeat with a child is liberating.
In fact, it is this kind of child-like perspective, this humble place that all new humans have, that is really free. Your head-space opens up beyond what you can see in front of your face.
It feels good to believe in dreams like a child.
Oops, what is regret?
Board the wrong spaceship?
Plot the wrong course?
Whatever you choose, wherever you decide to go, there is only one destination.
Let’s face it: You aren’t that special.
You’re not managing a fleet of ships. You only get one.
It’s like the guilt I have haunting me when I have to chosen work instead of playing with my daughter.
The choice is an absurd reality.
I made it and I have to live with it.
Although I’m the captain of this spaceship called Life, I can’t touch the controls.
There is a powerful AI, an autopilot that is ingeniously figuring out all the variables to keep the life support system running–the air, the water, the food.
So, in reality, it doesn’t matter what I choose. Guilt comes from any choice in life.
Guilt happens because you think you broke something.
And, you did. But, you can never put your finger on it.
I’ll regret not spending time with my daughter, or not getting enough work done (which may free my mind when I do have a chance to play with her–a topic of delayed-gratification).
I have to make a value-judgement, and let the rest ride.
The ability to choose what to do comes with a cost in either direction.
And, this makes life’s choice hard, paralyzing and liberating at the same time.
Regret is merely trying to bear the cost of either choice after you’ve made it.
The spaceship is still hurtling through emptiness.
What was the point of this post?
I think it was merely my way of expressing the conflict of deciding where to prioritize my time.
Do I choose between working on a project at home, or stopping for a while and playing with my young daughter (literally grabbing my arm to pull me away from my computer)?
“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”Albert Einstein
What did I choose? That night I kept working, and after bedtime, after she fell asleep, I felt regret.
But, I realized this is the natural state of being a parent.
You’re never 100% sure how to make the right choices between everything else you want or need to do. There are only 24 hours in a day, 33% of them asleep, a huge chunk away from home at a day job, and the rest….well, however you choose to use it.
I have to keep flying.