I loved watching my boys participate in sports. One of their youngest ventures was t-ball. For the uninitiated, t-ball is baseball without a pitcher. The baseball is placed on a tee for the young boy or girl to hit.
Now the beauty of t-ball is that you can’t strike out. If you happen to miss the ball when you swing, your coach will help you position your bat, and you get to try again. In fact, you keep on trying until you finally hit the ball. My boys called second and third swings “do-overs.”
I wish I had some do-overs as a father. I tend to be a workaholic. And when I put in long and unreasonable hours, I get grouchy. The laughing, joyous father becomes a grouchy bear.
Though I have had many spells of the bah-humbug attitude, it seemed to be especially pervasive when my boys were young. I was a seminary student and pastor of a rural church. I also worked at a bank since the church only provided me fifty dollars per week in income. My schedule was horrendous. Fifteen hours of classroom time each week. Thirty-plus hours at the bank. More than twenty hours a week of studying. And at least forty hours at the church.
During those three years, I often was anything but a joy. I have some painful memories that I don’t particularly like recalling. But those stories are important reminders.
The three preschool boys were still in their pajamas, watching an early-morning cartoon. “Look at Scooby Doo, Daddy!” one of the boys exclaimed in laughter. Those boys were having so much fun. They wanted their daddy to join in on the hilarity.
I was tired and had to leave for an 8:00 a.m. class, but that does not excuse my behavior. I told the boys in an irritable tone that I had to leave and they needed to hug me good-bye, part of our everyday routine.
The boys were into their cartoons and were oblivious to my demands. In a moment of anger, I left the little campus apartment without my daily hugs. I got into the old Ford, made the usual U-turn that brought me right in front of the apartment. And there, standing on the little porch, were Sam and Art crying, motioning for me to return and hug them.
I felt like such a lowlife—because I was.
Even as I write this story more than two decades later, my eyes are filling with tears.
I jumped out of the car, grabbed my two sons with each of my arms, took them back into the apartment, and hugged them repeatedly.
I then threw off my coat and sat on the floor and watched Scooby Doo.
I missed my 8:00 a.m. class, and I don’t even remember what the class was. But I do remember Scooby Doo. And I do remember my boys yelling with delight that Daddy had returned and joined the party of laughter.
But there just aren’t any do-overs as a father.
You can ask for forgiveness. You can make up for a bad moment.
But you can’t undo that which has already been done.
There are no do-overs.
Adapted from Raising Dad (B&H Publishing Group, 2007)