Stephanie and I slow danced and sang along with the band on Saturday night and as we did, I just let myself become immersed in the imagery of the lyric. In a throng of supporters underneath a sea of stars at the Comcast Center, Stephanie and I were dancing with each other while Darius Rucker sang “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” as though we were the only two people at the venue.
The soulful song about a Dad and his daughter enveloped my imagination as I swayed in time to the music. I smiled as I thought about him bringing his daughter home from the hospital and the sleepless nights that ensued as he adjusted to his new life as a parent. I empathized with him as he skipped four years ahead and recounted the fears and trepidations his daughter had around sleep and going to preschool. Vividly, I could see him shrugging his shoulders and asking the teacher for help as he tried to manage the ever changing world of his little princess. And as each chorus brought the reminders from his wife and the teacher not to worry because “it won’t be like this for long,” I could remember the reassurances Stephanie has given me along the way as well. “One day we’ll look back on this fondly and laugh,” she always reminds me and something tells me that one day, we will.
I was reveling in a moment of peace and tranquility with my wife. I was dancing under the stars and as the world seemed to fade away, the song took a new lyrical twist that jolted me out of my daydream:
But right now she’s up and cryin’
And the truth is that he don’t mind
As he kisses her good night
And she says her prayers
He lays down there beside her
‘Til her eyes are finally closed
And just watchin’ her it breaks his heart
Cause he already knows
It won’t be like this for long
One day soon that little girl is gonna be
All grown up and gone
As the words wafted and reverberated in my ears, a lump developed in the back of my throat as the reality of my own existence as a father gripped my heart like a piece of wood in a vice. This was more than a song; this was the story of my life because the past eight years have paralleled the circumstances in the musical poetry. Especially, the stark reality that “it won’t be like this for long” and sooner or later, our children will be declaring their ever growing independence with each passing year.
As the song ended, I looked into Stephanie’s eyes, kissed her and then turned to applaud with the other twenty thousand fans. But the poignancy of the moment has tugged at my heartstrings for the past two days because there are so many universal truths that had to be examined in my relationship with my children. Eight years may seem like a long time but as I look back to those nights when Josh and Chloe were born, I remember the promises I made to each of them. I have been good at keeping most of them. But I am guilty of having nights when I lie awake in bed because I missed something in their lives that made me feel like I had failed them or let them down.
And it was in the assessment of those events that I had a profound revelation. On the nights my children were born, I promised to be there for everything, I promised to be the best Dad ever known and finally, I promised to give my children the world. They were promises that I meant but they were promises that I could never keep.
My children don’t need me to be there every minute of every day and they absolutely don’t want me to give them everything in the world. They just want me to share my world with them and to help them to explore the endless possibilities that exist. They want me to teach them about the freedom to discover their own path when two roads diverge in a wood. And although they may want to hold my hand for support and guidance as they try new things in their lives, they want my permission to grow up and spread their wings when they find courage to stand on their own two feet.
I smile every day at their attempts to navigate the world around them and I take solace in the moments that we do have to spend together. The memories of those cherished occasions are much more meaningful for everyone in our family. I am proud of the people my children are becoming. I am happy they are independent and at the same time, it fills my heart with love when my children crawl up on my lap and we read a book together.
And as much as I wish it wasn’t true; the times do change, people do change and children do grow up. I have two great children and I thank God every day for letting me be their father. It is the greatest job I have ever undertaken and as long as I continue to do my job of sharing my world with them, then maybe, just maybe, I will fulfill the promise of being a good Dad.
Author’s Note: In case you haven’t heard the song, I am providing the video below: