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What I’m Sacrificing As A Parent

One of my all time favourite movies is The Shawshank Redemption, an excellent visual telling of Stephen King’s novella titled “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. This is one of the highest rated films on IMDB. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it. Then come back here after. It’s okay, I’ll wait…

There are so many elements of this film that resonate with me since I first saw it in the theatre in 1994. The cinematography, the sets and the characters are all memorable. But it’s the dialogue that stands out the most for me. Between Morgan Freeman’s narration and the wonderful conversations between the two main characters, Andy and Red, the film is filled with brilliant tidbits of philosophy and wisdom. One great line is; “Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”

So what does all of this have to do with the title of this piece? I’ll get to that in a bit.

This past week presented me with a few moments of morose self reflection. I saw Beth-Rose off to Germany for a visit with our “daughter” Jana, and spent a few hours on the ferry home, reflecting on my past 17 years as a parent. Suddenly my brain startled me with the thought, “I’ve sacrificed the best part of my life to be a parent.” What!? Did I really think that? What am I sacrificing as a parent?

The Last Thing I Wanted

For most of my life, the idea of being a parent never stuck. It was the last thing I wanted. I was independent, living my life footloose and fancy-free. In fact, becoming a parent was going in the complete opposite direction I wanted with my life. But something changed after I met the love of my life. In less than a year I went from “never having kids” to “I’m ready to be a Dad”.

sacrificing as a parent is not something I do
The epitome of cool…

And I went all in. We both did, Heather and I. We committed to the idea of being Mom and Dad. Our lifestyle went through a radical transformation. We were no longer DINKs. Don’t know what that is? Really?! Google it…

When Heather became pregnant we moved to Vancouver Island. I was no longer an independent contractor, running my own business. Within two weeks of moving, I worked at The Home Depot. For the first time since my railroad days back in the early 80’s, I found myself working for someone else, receiving a regular (small!) paycheque. I was 45 years old and making less than half the money I earned in my thirties. And yet I never considered that I was sacrificing anything. I did what I needed to do to create a stable family life with a new baby.

And so, as the years went by, I grew into the role of “Parent”. And I found out that I liked who I had become. I liked being a Dad.

Sacrificing as a parent is not an issue. Spending time with my little ones

A Guiding Light

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, the main character, Andy, gets sent away to prison for life. A straight-arrow banker who’s accused of murdering his wife. Andy spends the next 19 years finding a way to survive. *Spoiler Alert!* He survives.

The one theme the movie hammers home is “hope”. Hope is what keeps Andy going. It’s his guiding light.

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Andy Dufresne, talking to his prison buddy Red

And as the story progresses, Andy receives many opportunities that keep his hope alive. It feeds him. Hope is his salvation. And through Andy’s experiences, it becomes his friend Red’s salvation as well.

But never once in the film does he talk about “sacrifice”. He just keeps moving forward, toward his ultimate goal.

Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

Red (to Andy)

17 Years Of Sacrificing As A Parent?

Andy spent 19 years of his life living in Hell. But it led him ultimately to the life he dreamed of. He found his Nirvana, and helped his friend find it as well. And when Red finally gets released on parole, he’s lost and alone, with no structure to his life. An institutionalized prisoner without a routine. But he remembers his friend Andy, and he breaks parole to find his friend. Finally, Andy becomes his guiding light.

I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

Red, after breaking parole

And nor have I spent 19 years in Hell. Not even 17. So what am I sacrificing as a parent? I’ve spent more than 17 years as a parent, and none of it has been a sacrifice, no matter what a part of my brain thinks! Granted, my life hasn’t turned out like I expected. But that’s not saying it’s turned out worse. Far from it.

What’s more, the last 17 years have created more opportunities for me, personally and professionally. Of course had I lived my life differently, other opportunities would likely have presented themselves, but that’s not the point. What is the point?

Yes, What Is The Point?

Becoming a dad changed so many things for me, and opened my eyes to a world I never imagined. I’m wiser, and far more patient than I ever was. I learned the love of a parent for their children, which is so different from the love I feel for Heather.

So a part of my brain thinks I sacrificed 17 years of my life. That part is still stuck in DINK mode. To that I say, “Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll take it from here.”

Sacrificing As A Parent? No Chance!

My last 17 years have been rewarding, chaotic, frustrating, amazing, sad, fantastic, infuriating, and thrilling. I don’t know what the next 17 years will bring, but that’s okay. Like a good book, I don’t need to know what happens before I get there. I sacrifice nothing. I’m living my best life. This is where I am meant to be.

Andy had one more great quote, from a scene midway through the movie. Sitting with his friend Red, Andy faced yet another setback. He’s learned there’s a way to get a new trial. Unfortunately the warden is very unhelpful, to the point of murder. Andy is frustrated, despondent. Red is afraid for his friend. He thinks Andy is about to give up on life. But this moment of setback is actually a catalyst for Andy. It pushes him forward. Propelled by adversity, he chooses to carry on. He chooses life.

“I guess it comes down to a choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Andy Dufresne

Same choice for me, really.

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1 year ago

Kids are what happens when you poke at someone for fun and they take you seriously.

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