"Three months ago something happened to me...I recognized that there is more to life than phone calls and emails, than calling recruits and worrying about the team. I stayed up all night thinking: Is this the career path I want?"
The letter had come from a young man who identified himself as an assistant coach of one of the nation's top college swim teams. He was also a new parent and it bothered him that he was already making excuses for not attending the important events in his son's life: "Will my son score his first goal or touchdown and I have to hear about it over the phone?"
Why was this young man so urgently writing to me?
On the Saturday before Father's Day, when he was 2,000 miles away from home and his son for a swim meet, he had walked into a bookstore and started browsing through a copy of my memoir Unfinished Business, which chronicles my struggle to become a more attentive father. "It was ironic that I chose to look at this shelf and pick up this book while I was going through the very same thing." As he perused the book, the came across a reference I had made to Mark 13:33: "Take heed, watch, for you know not when the time will come." Although this passage is typically interpreted as meaning the time for death, the young man saw it as meaning the time for the job that would enable him to become a more present and involved father.The right opportunity would present itself to him "when it is meant to happen," he wrote me; so, as Mark 13:33 cautioned, he would need to stay vigilant.
Here's what I wrote back to the young man:
"Because you've been working so long, as an athlete and coach, at such a highly competitive level, it is only natural for you to be questioning your current career path as you embark on the demanding new adventure of parenting. The impressive thing is that you already recognize the importance of balancing work and family life. Most young people don't factor this into their choice of career or lifestyle and too many end up suffering the consequences -- a midlife identity crisis or divorce, deep regrets, a tense relationship with their children."
I hope the young man's time comes soon. Whatever path he chooses -- whether he ends up coaching at a big-time college or at a tiny high school or pursuing an altogether different career -- I have a feeling that he'll stay true to his Father's Day epiphany and to his first priority, which is to be an involved and attentive dad.
Do you agree with the author's advice to the young man? If not, what would you have advised him instead? Looking back, do you think that the fathers in your life (including you, if relevant) achieved the right balance between work and family life?
Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury). Click on Are You Happy, Daddy? and How I Learned That My Father Loved Me to read his other recent Father's Day columns.