Marolt: The road to Meeker is paved with time well spent
A friend at Aspen Skiing Co. informed me last week of the official number of days I skied this season. It was 30. That’s not much skiing. I thought about it some more, and it sounded impossible. I can’t believe I got that many!
The thing is, my kids keep me hopping, and when you’re hopping, you can’t be skiing. Now, I’m not talking about changing diapers and watching to make sure they’re not sucking on Lego lozenges. We are way past that. My kids are teenagers.
When your tots are tiny, you don’t have much discretionary time to spend. They need things, and you provide them. It takes time. It takes energy. You add up the hours in a day, divide them by what needs to be done and brace yourself. No choice equals no dilemmas about free time. Don’t blink; it will fly by like an Aspen summer. Ask anyone who’s been there.
Things are different when you have teenagers. You have choices. You can spend a lot of time with your kids or none at all. They will survive either way. They also will have some input about this.
When it comes to sharing time, our kids and my wife and I have arrived on common ground over athletics. We are not hanging around at their parties, at movies they plan to go to or even on the school campus, where we are restricted to showing our faces on a need-to-be-needed basis. This is why I have grown to love their sports and relish the gobs of time they devour. Together in this environment of requisite closeness with built-in structural separation, I think even the kids dig it.
That said, we didn’t push our kids into sports to feed our desire to spend time with them. If anything, we probably disincentivized participation by holding fast to two horrifying rules: One, you don’t have to do any sports, but if you decide to try one, you have to stick it out for the entire season, no matter what. And two, you have to respect your coaches, teammates and game officials. Sometimes I think our kids participate out of rebellion.
Whatever. After doing the analysis of all my potential “ski days,” I figured out that most were spent watching basketball, nordic and alpine ski racing, lacrosse and baseball, alternating between posh resorts and boondock towns all over this diversely beautiful state. Weekdays were jammed. Weekends were more jammed. In between, I worked my tail off, alternating between catching up on work I missed and trying to get ahead so as not to miss upcoming events. Being ahead and behind at the same time causes you to be shell-shocked from projects blowing up all around you. It has been a pattern repeated annually for at least a decade.
This is a teaser for young parents. A long time ago, when I was your age and had a full head of darkish hair and the bags under my eyes easily could be attributed to poor lighting, in the seconds after flopping into bed before succumbing to complete exhaustion, I would fantasize about the future, when the kids would be on autopilot and I could pull together again the blown-up fragments of what used to be the spare time I owned to do whatever I wanted with.
What I want to warn you about is that, if you are longing for extended periods of time to fill as you please with all the things in life that made you happy before you got into this craziness, by the time you actually get to that point there is a really good chance your neck will be fused stiff from always looking ahead. That time doesn’t arrive when your kids turn 5 and head off to kindergarten. It doesn’t happen when they turn 13. The high school years are the busiest of all. I don’t even expect it will come by the time my youngest turns 21.
But don’t take this to mean that all hope is lost. The future you imagine is happening now. All you have to do is see that you actually do have gobs of spare time, that you are spending exactly how you want, and it includes driving the road to Meeker. Treat every second you can arrange to spend with your kids as something you stole back from a miserable miser trying to screw you out of it. It’s worth wearing out a car and not getting full value out of a few Premier Passes.
Roger Marolt is also grateful for the wonderful parents and families he’s met through the common bond of youth sports. Contact him at email@example.com.
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