"Don't ya know we're living in stolen moments
You steal enough it feels like we're stopping time
These days are gold we're living in stolen moments
Just grab hold and feel your way
These days are yours and mine"
John Hiatt wrote those words on an album entitled "Stolen Moments". It's a wonderful snapshot of life as he saw it...not exactly as he thought it'd be but irreplaceable in it's own right. I love Hiatt's work. he's one of my favorite songwriters of all time. I especially love this song and the last few days I have been humming it to myself and thinking a lot. Great writing will do that...inspire thought and introspection. Not all great writing has to...some of it is pure fun. But there is a certain thoughtfulness that the best writers possess, whether they write songs, books, or blog entries.
As a dad, I especially relate to this song, in some bittersweet ways. My daughter will be 12 years old next Friday. I have been divorced for 10 of those years and so my fatherhood is physically interrupted by custody guidelines and visitation parameters. I say physically interrupted because nothing can stop or hinder my fatherhood, only my physical presence. Coupled with my limited time by judicial fiat, I also now officially have...*gulp*...a teen aged daughter. My little girl who was for years content with hanging with Daddy on Friday night and watching The Powerpuff girls, now wants to spend the night at her friends house, and wants me to take her shopping. Shopping! I feel like a failure! Okay no I don't. But I do realize that my time with her is accelerating exponentially now toward a permanently diminished state. I'm not as much fun as I used to be. Because she isn't 5 anymore. These days I have to rely on Stolen Moments. I steal them every chance I get and they add up to "stopped time" as Hiatt says. I try to stop enough so that it adds up to special times with her. Listening to her when she talks. critiquing her drawings...encouraging her endeavors as a singer. (She is gifted with a beautiful voice and has finally overcome the awkwardness of singing publicly and is entered in her school talent show this year. The moments we steal matter very much to our children. Just being there and being involved. Asking specific questions about their days and knowing who their friends are and what their friends are facing in life. Knowing what songs my daughter listens to and knowing the words. Talking to her instead of giving orders all the time. She is almost an adult now and adults don't make rigid demands of each other without at least explaining the reasoning behind them.
Divorced dads especially have to become time thieves. It's sad but true. Most of the time we become afterthoughts to the system and to our former wives. The temptation can be to just fade away because it so often feels like the efforts we put forth are unnoticed and unappreciated and unwanted. But our kids need us, those stolen moments matter. It's what they'll remember when they are grown. Not that dad showed up once every few months with a bunch of gifts and spent the afternoon, but that every time she looked out into the audience at her violin recital she saw her daddy snapping as many pictures as he could and smiling like a goofy idiot. She will remember that he was never more than a phone call and a ten minute drive away when she needed him to come and get her. That he always had time to talk and not only when he "had time". That he asked about her grades and that he also helped her with a plan to do better. That he threw himself recklessly behind her dreams, sometimes at the expense of his own, and gave her the best push up that hill that he possibly could. Those moments seem stolen but they are, in fact, earned. They collect and pool together until they form a wonderful mosaic of the life of a dad and his child. Stolen moments matter. "You steal enough, it feels like your stopping time."