Perspective is a powerful thing. So is hindsight, although I’m not sure it’s actually 20/20. Looking back, do we always see things more clearly than we saw them in the first place? When we’re in the moment, evaluating a decision, we do the best we can at that point in time. But some time later – could be days, weeks, months or years – would we have chosen to take the same road?
I’ve spent a considerable part of my life alone in hotel rooms in the U.S. and Europe. I first started traveling for work before my sons were born. It was part of my job. It’s how I made money to support my family and our lifestyle…modest as it was. I must admit, I enjoyed the travel - and still do - seeing new places and meeting new people, some that have become long-time industry and/or personal friends. As the years went on, depending on the position I held, I continued to travel… I was on the road sometimes much of the time, sometimes less.
The births of our sons - Brian and Kevin - were two of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my life. And I made a vow that no matter what I was doing, and where I was, I would always be home on the weekends – a promise I kept virtually 100% of the time. But in hindsight, that wasn’t either fair or enough. It wasn’t fair to Sharon, my first wife and the mother of my sons, leaving her with all that responsibility, and just not being home enough. Our cost of living allowed her to be a full-time mom, something that has become more and more difficult nowadays as prices of housing, schooling and, well, everything have risen to stratospheric heights. I have always loved being a dad and as I look back I wish I had been around more as I missed so much and I’m pretty sure my wife and children missed me being there too. But when I was there – I was fully present.
My encouragement of the boys’ sports and music endeavors and Sharon’s artistic talent helped, in some ways, shape who they became: Brian is a performing musician and assistant professor of music at the University of North Carolina – Asheville and Kevin is a producer on some high profile reality TV shows such as the current hit, Impractical Jokers.
Both Brian and Kevin now have children of their own and while I’ve always been proud of them as individuals, I’m so impressed with them as fathers. They both love being dads and are doing a great job at it. And they each have jobs that allow them to be home most every night – it makes a difference.
As I look back on how my parents ‘parented’ me, I wish they had done some things differently. It took me a long time, but I finally understood that they were doing the best they could. Sharon and I both wished our parents had done some things differently to help shape what we became. We made a conscious decision to follow a different path than our parents in many ways – to not make what we believed were mistakes, and we had always felt that we did the right thing. Thinking in hindsight again, I wish I had made some different choices. Perhaps it resembles the ‘lessons learned’ talked about regarding real estate investment cycles. “We won’t do that again.” But we sometimes do…
Today is a much different time to be raising children than when we raised Brian and Kevin. Life was simpler then; the world was less complicated. Today, there are so many more distractions – technology being just one of them – I’m not sure how I would deal with those if I had young children today.
The other night, after Brian and his family arrived from out of town, I spent the evening with my sons and their families. It was an incredible feeling – to participate and play, and also to simply observe my four grandchildren – Sean (6), his brother Gavin (3), and the twins, Edie and Ben (3). It brought tears to my eyes every once in a while because I was reminded about what a lucky guy ‘Grandpa’ really is.
On Sunday, Father’s Day, we’ll all be doing some things together. Due to logistics, this doesn’t happen very often. And I am so looking forward to it. It’s another incredible thing in my life to watch what a great job my sons and daughters-in-law are doing raising their kids. Just like Sharon and me, the next generation has incorporated things that went well from their own upbringing, and are making adjustments where areas could be improved from the past.
For those of you who have frequent travel as part of your job, I encourage you to make decisions about whether a trip is absolutely necessary if it means you’ll miss a music recital or a sporting event that your child (or grandchild!) is participating in. Sure, technology allows you to have some degree of those experiences from wherever you are in the world. But, there is no substitute for being there in person – for you and for your child. Think about it now – not 30 years from now – when you say to yourself, ‘I wish I had done it differently’ as I sometimes do.
‘Grandpa’ is a title that means a lot to me. It reflects life itself…the next generation and the one after that. For all of you who are dads or grandpas, I know you know what I’m talking about.
Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers (and grandfathers) and especially to my sons, Brian and Kevin.
|Kevin (blue shirt); Brian (red shirt)|