It’s 4:00 am and my father wakes me up as he walks out the door for work. I throw on my running shorts, shoes and a good athletic shirt. I step outside and the thought that I haven’t eaten breakfast yet passes through my mind like a forgettable taxi on a New York street. I have something else to accomplish, and the cool quiet suburban street calls my name. It’s just another school day in my freshman year of high school, and I have three miles to run before I hit the gym (coincidentally only three blocks from my house). I revel in the fact that my teammates and friends are still wrapped in their blankets. At my core, in every moment that I can spare, I am an athlete.
This was generally every day of my life from eighth grade until I signed my full ride scholarship to UCLA to play football. I had worked and sacrificed for that and up until I was finished playing in 2009, athletics was truly a way of life for me.
Then, I was done.
A period of time passed without me know what to do. I had graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and pondered the idea of law school. I eventually went into law…just through a slightly different career trajectory. Shortly thereafter, I found myself forever joined in the fraternity of fatherhood. I quickly found that not all journeys through this land of paternal responsibility were the same. They had the same basic assembly, but the outcome was very different for all involved.
When Some Boy came along, I was just being me…plus a small pal. My focus was really just on maintaining my goals in spite of yet another responsibility. This, thankfully, was not a mindset destined to be long-lived. Sidekick quickly joined the ranks followed by Minion and Bam in short order. There was no denying it. I was surrounded by awesome little minds that demanded my mental and physical attention.
It’s 4:00 am and my toddler wakes me up as he crawls into my bed. I throw the blanket over him as I head off into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. I step into the boys’ room to make a quick check on the other three and ensure they are still tucked in tight. I have to head off to work soon. I revel in the fact that not many of my coworkers know what it’s like to have four sons, especially all under six years old.
The world for me is different now. I am still an athlete at heart but the game I play couldn’t be more different. The stakes are higher and the rewards, well, those are so much more valuable. As romantic as it sounds, though, the struggle is real. Being a father means being much more than yourself. You have to find a new level of awareness and you have to think on your toes. It’s not just about me anymore in this game and unlike the sports of my past, the audience also gets to participate.
I quickly learned that children are always watching. It wouldn’t be so bad except at some point you realized that they mimic your behavior and being an a**hole every now and then really starts to look bad when your four-year- old walks around doing the same thing.
“There’s a flag on the play Dan! Looks like that’s gonna cost ’em.”
So struggle I will. I work hard to put in my time. It’s all about reps. I find now that a lot of my athleticism as a father or “dadlete” is spent sparring against three little gladiators on my California King sized bed. Sprints to the gate to get the mail are a common occurrence and even though I might not be able to lift my own body weight at the moment, I can lift a two-year-old and a four-year-old at the same time.
And – since this is a sport with a participating audience – I have to make the best of the free time that I have. No, I may not be running wind sprints from sideline to sideline until I almost pass out, but I do make the best effort I can to make sure the boys see me doing something active. That’s why the great outdoors makes so much sense. The goal is to keep the boys from wanting to spend time on the couch. That’s nearly impossible at a campsite (not intentionally knocking you Space Camp junkies!).
Your prowess in the game isn’t about God-given gifts of muscles or mass, but about practice and determination and good old-fashioned work.
As for me, I may still have some ‘personal’ work to do. I know I’ll probably never be back at my prime.
Obviously, I set the bar way too high.
But I can still be one hell of a dadlete.