For the past month or so, my wife has been asking me a difficult question.
She's been asking me if I'd accompany her to watch our daughter play in a non-music majors orchestra concert at the University of Georgia.
The concert was Tuesday. It was scheduled to start at 8 p.m., but our daughter would be taking the stage at 9 p.m. and performing for less than an hour.
Oh, and she would be available to join us for dinner after the concert.
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I did the math. Bess and I both had to work on Wednesday, so spending the night in Athens was out of the question. We'd leave Columbus at 4:30 p.m., get to Athens in time for the concert, take our daughter to dinner, drive home, and go to bed at 2 a.m.
That was six hours of driving -- and considerable sleep deprivation -- to watch our daughter play the oboe for 45 minutes with a full orchestra.
Which made me think of a question my father asked me about 10 years ago. He'd just offered me a four-day pass to the SEC basketball tournament, and I told him the dates conflicted with the opening day of Little League baseball.
And he said, "What are you trying to do, win father of the year?"
At the time, my four children ranged from toddler to early elementary school, and probably I was self-consciously trying to be a good father.
But any parent knows that as your children get older and life gets more complicated -- both emotionally and logistically -- you get to a point where you just hold on and try to survive and hope that the ballgame or concert you miss isn't the one your child remembers 20 years later in a therapy session.
And who gives out father of the year awards anyway? And what criteria do they use?
I know the National Father's Day Council named Bill Clinton father of the year in 2013. I guess that makes more sense than naming him husband of the year.
But this was the same organization that named Hulk Hogan father of the year in 2007. Did they not watch the TV show?
So no, I wasn't going to win father of the year for driving six hours to watch my daughter play oboe for 45 minutes, and it wouldn't really mean anything if I did.
I decided to go anyway.
It was logistically complicated, requiring our 12-year-old son to entertain himself for several hours after school, then link up with our 16-year-old son after his high school baseball game, and then they would both go find our 15-year-old son, who was hanging out with friends somewhere, and then all three would feed themselves a nutritious dinner, feed and walk the dog, do their homework and go to bed at a decent hour.
Ha ha ha.
We went anyway.
At the concert, our daughter played beautifully, and she had a big exposed part where she was the only instrument playing. That alone was worth the six-hour drive.
Then we had a nice dinner and the kind of conversation we could never have had if she was at home with her three brothers. That alone was worth the six-hour drive.
The next day, people at work asked me why I looked so tired, so I told them how I drove to Athens to watch my daughter play oboe for 45 minutes. They either didn't have children or had never raised multiple teenagers. They were very impressed.
Then I went to a baseball game, where I always sit next to one of the player's grandfathers. He asked me what I'd been up to lately. I told him how I drove to Athens to watch my daughter play oboe for 45 minutes and we took her to dinner afterwards and got home at 2 a.m.
"Well, of course you did," he said. "That's kind of what we do."
He could have added, "What do you want, a medal?" He didn't.
But the message was clear: I'd done what I was supposed to do -- nothing more and nothing less -- and that's what being a parent is all about.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org