Usually for people trying to make changes or resolutions in their lives, the date they fix upon is January 1. Many a diet has been launched on that day, and many a half-full pack of cigarettes thrown away.
For me, though, it’s always been August 1 – Colorado Day. Officially, the first day of August commemorates the day in 1876 when Colorado joined the Union (hence its moniker of the “Centennial State.”)
It was 10 years ago this July that I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Europe with some folks from the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, where we performed as part of an international festival and took the stage in a 14th Century Swiss castle. At the time, I was a single dad with a 4-year-old son. I was also still a smoker, and Max was getting to the age where it was getting harder to hide my evil habit from him. As a relatively new parent, it gradually became clear to me that sneaking around was no way to model good behavior for Max, and so I resolved to quite.
On Colorado Day – right after I got back from Europe, world capital of smoking.
As I mark a decade of freedom from the world’s dumbest pastime, I also can reflect on other ways being a parent has changed me. Most parents acknowledge that anything resembling selfishness goes out the window when babies start showing up, and one’s view of the world is radically altered as you realize, “Hey, it really isn’t all about me!” Talking to friends who don’t yet have kids, they shake their heads when I tell them about some of the things that change when you become a parent. To them, they hear only “sacrifice.”
But it’s more than that, of course. When you’re 25 and single, a Saturday night out on the town may seem like an imperative. At that age, one craves the scene, the action, the possibilities of mingling with the other sex. When that’s replaced with a quiet night at home on the couch with spouse and kids, you don’t really miss it. It’s become rather meaningless, in fact. Although that’s not to say that making time for dates with your better half isn’t critical.
And that may be one of the things parents struggle with most. Finding a night away from the kids has always been a challenge for my wife and I. Making time for oneself is also important, and something we don’t do often enough. The theatre I used to love so much has mostly vanished from my life, although I do hope to pick it up when our youngest gets a little older. I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything, but there’s no doubt these middle years are tough on the self.
So, as Colorado Day arrives tomorrow, I’ve got a new project I’m going to resume work on, another habit to kick and some pounds to lose. Technically, I suppose it’s silly to have a special day to focus on for personal improvement – what’s wrong with May 23 or Sept. 27? But I do know that, 10 years ago, setting a firm date and sticking to it was what worked for stopping something. Any self-help book worth its salt will tell you to do what works for you, so pick a date if you’ve got something you want to tweak and stick to it.
And if you’re a parent, take a hard look at things you miss from your pre-baby days and ask if there’s a way to fit that back into your life. Your kids may even thank you for it.