A promise is a promise

Less work, more play: columnist Chris Hunt plans to put parenting first in 2019

I can honestly say I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution in my life.  Well, not any I planned to keep.

Sure, I’ve heralded many a new year with a wayward pledge to better myself in some small fashion. Junk food, alcohol, screen time and sedentary habits have all been verbally sacrificed at one time, only to be resurrected in a moment of weakness.

I believe last New Year’s saw me sitting on a couch, a pig in a blanket in one hand, a beer in the other while watching cartoon countdowns on Netflix. 

Not that I’m a slave to bad habits. It’s just I’ve always found the very idea of a New Year’s resolution to be gimmicky and superficial.  If one is truly resolute to make a change in their life, why wait?

And what is a resolution but a promise to yourself?  Do you have any idea how easy it is to break a promise to yourself? 

ME: “I really want a cheeseburger right now.”

ALSO ME: “But I promised me I wouldn’t eat that stuff this year.”
ME: “I won’t tell anyone.”
ALSO ME: “Right. Also, get onion rings.”

But a promise to someone else, that’s a different beast altogether.

I’ve been a terrible father the past few months. I’ve recently taken a new job. I have fantastic co-workers, the work itself is both challenging and rewarding and when I go home, I feel I’ve accomplished something that matters.

But with any new job, there was a learning curve.  To acclimatize myself I’d get to work early. If I got to work just on time, I felt I was already behind.

And I’d take work home with me. Instead of spending my quiet time with my son I’d be writing e-mails or getting a jump on work that wasn’t due yet.

I immersed myself so completely in my work life I completely neglected my son. He’s been having troubles in school. His mother tried talking to me about it, but my mind was so focused on an upcoming deadline I completely glossed over what she was saying.

Frustrated, she told me to read an e-mail sent by one of his teachers. I still haven’t read it. The time spent with my son used to be my favourite time. I’d long to hear him beckon for me: “Daddy, come plaaaaaaaayyyyy with me.” And I would play with him. Rather, I used to.

Lately, I’ve been too busy working to spend any meaningful time with him.

I didn’t even realize I was doing it until one morning when Riley called for me. It must have been about five in the morning.  I typically leave at around six.

He was stuffy. Later we’d find out he had pneumonia.

I went to him and without thinking tried to bring him to the bathroom, thinking that was why he was calling me. 
He shrugged my hands away, “No Daddy. Come snuggle.”
He wrapped his little arms around my neck and sighed. I tried to push him away. 

“Riley, I’m going to be late for work.”
“Who cares?”
“I need to go.”
“Not on my watch.”
That last line made me laugh so hard it hurt.

And then I just laid there with him. I honestly couldn’t remember how long it had been since I spent some time with him. Just him and I, doing nothing.

There needs to be more of that.

So Riley, I promise to be better. Starting now, I promise more playtime and less work time. I promise more snuggles and more books and more games and more awesome fun time. 

But most important, I promise to be a better father.  I love you buddy.