The Missing Years: Open Letter to a Busy Dad
Big Sister would carry around a photo of me in her hand and point to it and tell people, “That’s my daddy.” She was about three years old. I was a teacher and coach, and those were the missing years. I was a busy dad just like you. Maybe like you, I was almost consumed by the wrong kind of busyness.
If you are new to the Values Storying blog, welcome! I’m glad you have chosen to spend time with this community committed to passing down our values through the stories we tell…and re-tell. I write about my own family using pseudonyms for the rest of my family: Mrs. Right, Big Sister, Older Brother, and the Little Fella. Part of the reason I use alternate names is to somewhat protect their anonymity. Even more than that, though, our struggles and joys may very well sound pretty similar to some of your family’s struggles and joys. So let’s encourage and challenge one another to be the best family members we can be, no matter our titles within that family.
Busy Dad: A Story of Misplaced Values
I thought what I was doing in the classroom and on the athletic fields and courts was pretty important at the time. And I suppose shaping the hearts and minds of the next generation does have some value. But I was missing in action where it mattered most. I was all in at school, and I never missed church, but I had no idea how much I was missed at home. Because I wasn’t there much.
Even worse, I spent much of my spare time doing what I wanted to do. At that point in my life, that meant many nights on the softball field and many Saturdays at the golf course. I wasn’t any good at golf, but I figured I couldn’t get any better without playing. At six hours a pop, though, I was missing my older two children grow up. I was a even a busy dad with my “me” time.
Mrs. Right’s best efforts didn’t open my eyes to what I was doing to my family. She began to pray that God would, and He did. I don’t remember exactly when or how. I do remember where it all became clear.
Busy Dad: A Heart Turned Toward Home
The nice spring day belied the pummeling that my team was taking on the baseball field that day. We didn’t have a hit, much less a run. As the game approached mercy rule status, I began to calculate the daylight hours I would have left to spend with my family. My team may not have touched home that day, but I realized that day that home had touched this busy dad.
Just a few years later, I was able to work from home (for the first time) for about six months or so. I saw much of the Little Fella’s childhood that I had missed with Big Sister and Older Brother. There were times when I would point out something that he was doing that seemed unique to me. I would ask Mrs. Right if Big Sister and Older Brother had done that, and she would respond that they had but that I wasn’t there to see it. (There is no way to write that without Mrs. Right’s sounding vindictive, but you’ll just have to trust me that she was not…at least not by that point in our lives.)
Busy Dad: A New Chapter
A little over a year ago, I came home again to a full-time career as a writer, speaker, and consultant. In looking back over the missing years, I can only say that the Lord is gracious to forgive and redeem. The journey back from those years was painful at times, and sometimes I didn’t think I would ever recover, but it has been worth it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m as busy as ever…just with radically different priorities.
So, busy dad, would you take one piece of advice from a guy who’s maybe a little farther up the road? Turn your heart toward home. You may not be very good at this dad thing at first, but I encourage you to stick with it. I may not be all that as a dad today, but I dare say that since I engaged in this fatherhood thing, I’m a far cry better than that photo my little girl was carrying around. Let me know if I can help you reclaim your missing years.Sincerely,
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.