It’s hard to beat summer when it comes to seasons, but autumn is a close second for me, for one simple reason: change. And this is a big year for exciting changes for my family and me.
For many people (myself included, depending on the situation), change can be difficult, but September and October bring with them the excitement of new opportunities, new challenges and new activities.
People are heading back to work with a chance to hit the reset button and focus on fresh goals for the year; kids of all ages head back to school with the prospect of making new friends or meeting up with old ones.
The weather turns cool and fresh, but not so cold that we’ve begun our annual hibernation, and — very important in Canada! — hockey season kicks into gear.
This fall marks the end of two eras for me. About 19 months ago, I made the tough decision to leave a job I’d held for more than 10 years. Initially, I’d planned to take maybe half a year off to watch my kids and pursue some personal projects on the side, but as the time rolled on, my wife Amanda and I found it harder and harder to accept letting go of the benefits of having a parent at home when children are very young.
Now, with my eldest already in school and my youngest heading off to junior kindergarten, the era of young children in our home during weekdays is over (sick days excepted, of course). And as such, I’ll be heading back into the world of full-time work for the first time in nearly two years.
We are endlessly thankful that our circumstances allowed us to slow our mornings down over the past little while, instead of rushing the kids through breakfast and out the door to get everyone where they needed to be (on time!).
We were able to avoid the stress of figuring out who would be explaining to work that the kids were sick that day and why we couldn’t leave the house. Lunches and cleaning could be done before dinnertime, instead of everyone rolling into a disaster area at 5 p.m. I got to play street hockey with my sons before school and help the older boy with his reading right after class, when he still had the energy to do it.
And, most important of all, I got to watch my kids grow up during stages of development in which changes come and go so fast, you barely have time to register them before the next one is upon you. I got to hang out with my boys at a time when they still want to hang out with me, something I know won’t last forever.
I’ve never been one to sugar-coat the challenges of parenting, and I won’t do so here. On more days than I can count, there was more whining and fighting than fun. There were days when I wished I could go sit in a quiet office and do the most boring work imaginable, just for a moment’s peace.
I wished I could go to the gym at lunch or, at the very least, eat my food at a sane pace instead of inhaling it before the next crisis struck. As any full-time parent knows, in a lot of ways, being at home is far, far more difficult than going into work: there are no breaks here, there is no one to delegate to.
But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.
My wife is a big country music fan, and one day a song was playing in the background that caught my ear. It’s called You’re Gonna Miss This by Trace Adkins, and it’s mostly about the different phases of parenting we all go through.
The refrain goes like this:
You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are the good times
So take a look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this
Perhaps, like me, you’ve found this to be true.
When my wife and I were living in our first apartment and started working and paying more bills, we missed the total freedom and lack of responsibility of university. When we moved into our first home, we missed living debt-free and being able to clean our whole place in 20 minutes.
When we started having kids, we missed simple things like being able to go to dinner and a movie whenever we wanted.
Every phase of our lives has its ups and downs, its benefits and challenges. When we look back on them, fortunately, often what we’re mostly left with are the fond memories.
I miss this time already, and it’s barely over. I know I’ll miss this time in the future, probably far more than I can fathom at the moment.
James Gordon is an Ottawa writer and entrepreneur. Follow him at Twitter.com/James_J_Gordon.