As Father's Day approaches, I am looking at a video I made twelve years ago, when our twins were only two-and-a-half. I always love watching this video, but suddenly it's taken on an important new meaning to me.
In the video (click here to view), Benjamin and Caroline mangle their newly attained vocabulary while mugging adorably for the camera. Caroline asks over and over again, "Are you happy, Daddy?" And to her giggly delight, I answer "yes."
Looking back, though, I wasn't happy. I was a workaholic who cared way too much about my job. Even when I was home playing with my children, or putting them to bed, my mind was tethered to work.
Until I got fired from that job and took stock of my life, I didn't realize how disconnected I had become from my wife and children. As I've written elsewhere: "The worst part of being so focused on my work was the relationship it kept me from having with my children: Benjamin said he was afraid to approach me, and Caroline told the babysitter, 'Daddy never smiles.'"
The girl who wanted so badly for her daddy to be happy at age two had become aware, by the time she was ten, that her daddy was miserable.
That realization hurt me into taking action. I spent an entire year tending to my life's unfinished emotional and spiritual business. I paid back old debts, fulfilled promises I hadn't kept, reached out to friends and relatives that I hadn't seen for years, and told the people I loved how much they mattered to me. In the process I started to reorder my priorities and become a more present and attentive husband, father, son. It's made a huge difference in my life. When Caroline asks, "Are you happy, Daddy?" I can honestly say yes. If your child asks you that same question, can you?
Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury), now available in paperback, with a new foreword by Gail Sheehy