On their deathbeds, fathers think about a lot of things. They think about the world they’re leaving to their sons and daughters. They think about how they parented. They think about the mistakes they made. They think about what they did right. They are warmed by the thoughts of their children, and, if they are lucky, they find themselves surrounded by them, the hospital bed serving as the final crowded table we have talked about here.
The question for you to think about today, on a day hopefully quite far from that moment, is what decisions are you making now and how will you think about them then? Think about what most dads regret as they come to the end of life: They regret not spending more time with their kids. They regret not telling them how proud of them they were (not doing it nearly enough). They regret taking things too seriously, they regret letting petty differences or petty problems loom larger than the love that they felt in their hearts. They regret not being present, spending all that energy trying to organize perfect “quality” time when there was so much ordinary, wonderful garbage time to be had. They regret not “engaging with the slime” because they cared too much about keeping the house clean. They may regret spoiling their kids, not teaching them the right lessons, not having the conversations that needed to be had.
Well, you’re lucky. Because you’re not on your deathbed right now. Because it’s not too late. Nor is it ever too early. Today you can adjust and change to make sure you don’t have those regrets—or at least you can seek to minimize them.
You only get one go at this. Learn from the people who have come before. Learn from your own parents. Try to get it right. Before you regret it.