This past weekend, Val headed to the beach with her sister and mother while I was home handling some errands and spending time with the boys. On Friday, the pool we joined had a movie night/night swim. I took Carter over as Aiden was sleeping at my mother’s house.
We sat in the parking lot as the pool had closed their gate for thirty minutes to get the lights up and pool ready. They were also showing a movie and had to get the large screen set on the lawn next to the pool. As we waited in the car, the parking lot filled with families. Other cars arrived and started dropping off teens for the swim. When the time came, the gate opened and we made our way inside.
I took position on a bench while Carter played with his friends. In about twenty seconds I realized how much time had passed.
Things I wish I’d known twenty years ago:
1/ Everyone is insecure- The crowd was a mix of the “popular kids” and the outsiders. One girl ran past me telling her friends “People want me in the pool and you are all up here hanging out. I don’t know what to do!” Some guys swam in full t shirts, others without. The posturing was interesting to say the least. If there’s anything I’d tell myself at 17 is that all people are insecure, not just you.
2/ These years aren’t forever– I thought everything was huge. All the conversations, interactions, days in school and days in summer. I thought it all mattered for the rest of time. It does not. Time is fleeting (in the words of the Rocky Horror Picture Show) and the sun will rise tomorrow. Eventually, it fades to memories.
3/ Have fun– A group of kids stood off in the corner hanging out and watching the others swimming, laughing and joking around. I know, from my own insecurities, that I missed out often on experiences and taking chances. Courage is not an easy thing, often it may seem cool to stay off to the side, but you must take advantage of the moments and grasp them tightly.
Because soon you’ll be a dad, watching your son swim, and wondering where all the time has gone. You’ll know, soon enough, he’ll want to be dropped off and ask you to wait in the parking lot.
The fear of a parent is not missing out. It is not how our kids will survive and will they make it though to adults. The fear is not having enough time. It is knowing that one day they’ll leave the house and start their own families. One day they’ll have their own lives and your conversations will change.
You’ll watch them graduate, meet significant others, stand in front of you and exchange vows. You’ll see them in their own house and get the call one day that you’ll be a grandparent.
One day there will be no 10 year old to take to the pool. No player to drive to baseball practice. No head resting in your lap as you watch a movie on Friday nights. No one strolling into the kitchen to give you a hug just because.
One day they’ll be out there, on their own.
And you’ll think of the day you sat at the pool and watched him swim and you’ll wish, just for a moment, that you could go back there and do it all one more time. Have one more summer night as the sun set, listen to the laughing and splashing, and maybe you’ll get up and join him. Maybe you’ll tell him how proud you are. Maybe you’ll stop checking email and just be there in the moment.
Because one day he won’t. He’ll be the sum of his childhood out there in the world and, God willing, be a better man than you.