Where I think a lot of parents feel inadequacy is when they see the parents around them seemingly involved in every event, every club, part of the PTA, and attending every…single…soccer/basketball/football/LaCrosse game. I certainly know that as little as 3 or 4 years ago the guilt wasn’t just in my brain it was inflicted on me by my wife, who had a tendency to see those around her and think she didn’t just need to be like them . . . she had to be better. The problem with that philosophy is that a) you’re never better than anyone else because b) the expectation and perception is always far higher than the reality.
I tell you all this because, to be frank and honest, I came the realization even three or four years ago that we can’t do it. I work some 30-40 miles from home. So in those instances, working in an industry where if you’re writing a story that airs that day . . . you cannot leave until your story airs that day!. I constantly had arguments with my late wife about how I wasn’t able to be home for either the Halloween parade at the house (it was always in the first week of the year’s most important ratings period) or couldn’t do a day-of birthday celebration at the Laser Tag facility at 3pm because, go figure, I had to work. I often got either (insert kid’s name here)’s Mom and Dad were able to do it! But often, the Mom or Dad worked from home or was an at-home parent. Other times they were state workers with tons of flex-time on their plate they could use.
Where my flexibility came in, which my kids and wife at that point never understood, was the ability to come home in those moments where my kids were sick or injured or what have you.
But, almost literally the week my wife passed away, it became apparent that we cannot do everything. Before we had Boy Scouts, choir, basketball, T-Ball, Soccer practices, guitar lessons . . . all those things were a weekly chore. My wife was at home the last year and supposed to take care of transport to and from all these things but inevitably that would fall through and I would get the frustrated phone call. That week I made a difficult decision that we can’t do everything. I told the kids that we had to make a decision and that was to do things I could get them to and from and each kid got one . . . one . . . thing only. If we could do weekends, so much the better. The school plays were rehearsals after school and they could get home. The other projects were on weekends, when I’m home.
But the seeds were sewn so that when I found out my oldest daughter, one who lives 9 hours away at college, has her first school play she didn’t anticipate I was able to come. This coming week I have a funeral for their grandmother – which I not only must, but want to attend – and her three siblings to care for. I cannot drive up, see a play and drive back in 2 days. I cannot take the train, it takes too long, and I would need someone to watch the three kids. Notice is short and . . . let’s face it . . . I can’t do EVERYthing. I do a lot. The daily chores keep me up late each night. I understand and embrace that, it’s not something that bothers me, it truly doesn’t. I may be tired, but I’m not collapsing from exhaustion.
So when I see the things I want to attend but can’t I remind myself that, while I’ve attended nearly every other event the kids have they understand I can’t do that any more. Distance, time, all that are against us in some cases.
Want to know something? We’re actually happier this way. We’re not constantly stressed, in the car, driving, yelling, juggling and running with no sense of direction. The trade-off is that we eat at the table every night. I read to the kids, help with homework, and we do projects like record songs and make videos for their college-life sister and friends that we didn’t have time to make before. Time is still on our side, we just juggle it a lot better.
No, you can’t do everything. It’s what you’re able to do, and do well, that matters.