One unexpected bonus of my occupation is having the freedom and the time to be an active parent. Today, for example, I am accompanying Patrick’s class on a school field trip to JA Biztown, an outing I know the kids are looking forward to.
Although I spend a lot of weekends traveling to races (and I still hope to in the months and years ahead!), I work otherwise from home. That has pros and cons; you can set your own schedule, but it is sometimes difficult to summon up creativity or productivity on demand. It’s so easy to get distracted!
I tend to get most of my work done immediately after I get Patrick off to school. I’ll work from 8-1 and then run errands for a couple hours, or work from 8-11 before grabbing a late breakfast or early lunch and getting back at it until the boy comes home at 3.
I’m fortunate to almost always be able to be home after school, eliminating the need for daycare. I’m also lucky that Patrick’s mom and I have a very good relationship and he enjoys splitting time with her.
What I treasure the most is our time traveling together. I feel guilty if I pull him out of school for an extra day or two over a break, but his teachers are quick to tell me that the experience he gets out in the world is often more beneficial then had he spent that time in class.
Patrick is a well-traveled kid. He’s been to 35 states, and he’s itching to get a passport and get out of the country. He went to Road America with me when he was three months old and, at age 11, he’s been to probably 25 big-time car races. That puts him 25 ahead of me, but so far, his interests have gravitated to WWI and WWII military and cats, both wild and domestic. Most of our travel together is anchored by some kind of a race, but I always try to find some kind of local attraction that will be a special treat to him. We’ve been to several aviation museums, and he’s seen Noel Gallagher and David Gilmour in concert.
Sometimes I think he’s a frustrating combination of seven and seventeen, his handwriting the scrawl of a child, his typing skills better than his father who types for a living. I’m an old parent, and I struggle to run, rough-house and wrestle with him like my dad did with me when I was a kid so many years ago. I worry that I am letting him down.
The last couple months have been really tough, losing the security of my contracted position with ESPN at the worst possible time and scrambling to put together a freelance program to pay the bills. My emotions have been all over the map: Angry and scared, relieved and optimistic, bitter and resentful. Hopeful. Sometimes a state of sheer panic. Will I ever have a “real” job again?
Any time I’m sad, mad or worried, just being with my son gives me comfort. Not only does he take my mind off my problems, he helps me approach them in a more positive state of mind. I harp on Patrick all the time to try to be his best, and without saying anything, he reminds me that I need to do that too.
So today, I’m not going to worry about chasing payment on an invoice, trying to drum up a writing assignment or plotting a way to monetize my website. I’m not going to try to figure out who the 34th Indy 500 entry might be, or analyze a 40-year old Pink Floyd bootleg.
I’m going to spend the day on a field trip with my kid and a couple dozen of his classmates and friends.
Because I can.