During the very formative years of my childhood(somewhere between 4 and 8 years old) I can remember my father arriving home from work and entering the house with a stack of mail under his arm. Then, as I charged the door and pulled at his legs, he would proceed to tap my head, say hello and aim straight for the bathroom. He would stay in there anywhere from 5-20 minutes, which seemed like a lifetime. I would bang on the door and ask what he was doing, how much longer he would be, or if I could come in. The funniest thing about this scenario was that he would never respond, no matter how hard I banged or how loud I yelled. It would be completely silent until he came out.
On one of the rare occasions that my father and I actually sat down at the table to eat dinner together during my college years, I asked him what this daily routine was all about. He leaned back in his chair and looked at me with a side grin on his face. The kind of grin when you know the person grinning wants to smile ear to ear, but they're holding back with all of their strength. After a pause and a reflective look out into space, he said, "Son, you'll learn one day, that a man needs some time for himself. You see, most of the time I wasn't even using the restroom. During those years, I was trying to raise you and your brother on my own, run a business, and keep the household together. In order to truly give you my best and be completely present when I came home, I needed that time to just sit and read the mind-numbing junk mail, until I felt ready to transition from work into being a parent again." We both got a good chuckle out of it, as his priceless gift of sound advice went in one of my ears and right out the other.
Now at 37 years old and father of two, I finally understand what he was trying to tell me...
Do you need to build some time for yourself into your daily routine in order to be a better teacher, colleague, spouse, partner, parent or friend? Just bring in the mail, head straight for the bathroom and give it a try...