Free time fleeting, but that’s OK

It is an interesting juxtaposition that, as humans, we all do many of the same things.

We go to work or school. We cook and eat. We focus on cleaning our house or maintaining our yard. We go to the store. We go to dinner or get ice cream to mark special occasions.

But, outside of those shared spaces, there is a high variety of differences. We’re all given a certain amount of “free time,” and it’s fascinating to see the ways people spend it.

Right now, Betsy and I are in an interesting phase of life. It’s one that is not uncommon to parents of kids past the age of diapers and toddlers.

We have active children, and, at 14 and 10, they are in the prime of their extracurricular phase of life.

Soccer van? Check.

Chairs and umbrellas pre-packed in said van? Check.

Multiple bags for multiple activities? Check.

The feeling of running a part-time laundromat? Check.

The feeling that no matter how hard we clean, we can’t stay on top of dishes? Check.

The itinerary of a traveling salesperson? Cleveland this week, Cincinnati next week. Check.

Check, check, check.

Each weekday, Betsy and I wake up and help get our kids out the door. Then we both dig in at our jobs, with both of us having occasional work that spills beyond the 9 to 5.

In the evening, we divide and conquer shuttling our kids (a nightly meeting is required). On most nights, we squeeze in a walk together — although not always — before preparing for the next day.

Then it’s wash, rinse, repeat again.

Then the weekend comes.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve had a steady slate of soccer and dance, our rhythm dictated by the schedule. Be at this field at 1. Backstage by 3:30. Family members often alongside us, we beam at our kids doing their thing, and rush home when it’s over.

Laundry, dishes, and trips to the store wait for nobody.

Our friends are the other parents who are in a similar place. We share in the triumphs and disappointments with those unexpected tribes.

Sunday night comes and we are tired. We take a deep breather, get the clothes and groceries ready, and get ready for what’s to come Monday morning.

It’s exhausting. It’s emotional. It’s time-consuming.

But it’s also rewarding, especially to see the confidence of our daughters growing.

Above all, we know it is fleeting. I goof around with friends that, in just a few years, we’ll all be bored, missing those long nights at the field or at the studio.

Until then, we vow to be present. For Betsy and I to find ways to steal time together amid the craziness. For our family to find the simple joy in a car ride together or a satisfying meal after a competition.

However you spend your “free” time, I believe the power of being present is a must.

We have a tendency to fixate on the past or focus too much on the future to truly enjoy the ride. The journey almost always is better than the destination.

Our oldest is months from starting high school. Our youngest is months from her final year in elementary school. We want to soak up every moment with our kids during this evaporating time.

So, what are my hobbies?

I love to watch sports and to exercise outdoors. I like to read and discuss how things work with my wife and friends. I like seeing new places, trying new restaurants, and being involved in church.

But, right now, my best answer to the hobby question is being where my kids are, carting them across town and to other towns while they pursue their passions.

Some day, I’ll join a coffee clutch or get back to playing golf more often. Maybe I’ll play more cards or we’ll sit down and watch more movies.

But, until then, I’ll be there with Betsy, cruising across another highway, lawn chairs in back, jamming out to music, reflecting on the good life that we have.

Alpena native Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Courier in Findlay, Ohio, the Sandusky (Ohio) Register, The Advertiser-Tribune in Tiffin, Ohio, the Norwalk (Ohio) Reflector, and Review Times in Fostoria, Ohio. He can be reached at jeremyspeer@thecourier.com.


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