I'm Working on Being Present for My Son
When I was 5 years old and was graduating from kindergarten, my class had set up a small show were we would sing a song with each of us representing a letter in the alphabet. I was the letter “C,” and my line was “C is for cat, that climbs on the wall.” I remember this day as if it were yesterday. The white cap and gown, the dress my mom made me wear and the time she spent on my hair. I also remember being nervous that my dad wouldn’t show up. It meant everything to me that he would. I remember the curtains opening and my looking out to the crowd and seeing my dad and mom waving at me, big smiles on their faces. I don’t have a lot of happy childhood memories, as my parents had a tumultuous relationship and eventually divorced, but that is one of my happiest: seeing my parents present for me.
This feeling carried itself throughout many phases of my life, the desire to have someone there to celebrate significant moments.
As a busy mom of three, often traveling and working from home, I understand how difficult juggling schedules and events can be and I can’t always be there for my teen, even when he wants me to be. I often feel bad about things I have to miss, but then I convince myself that it’s fine because at least I’m not “a helicopter parent”.
That is until I attended an event for my son’s high school sports team. He had asked me a few times to go and I sighed and sighed and told him I’d think about it before I finally said yes. I could tell he was very excited and we both dressed up nicely for the occasion – something which he really appreciated.
Once at the event, we separated, and he sat with his friends and I sat with the other parents, none whom I knew.
“Did you get the rules?” one mom asked another.
“Oh yes. I was told not to talk to her, or approach her. That she would come to me,” responded the other mom.
“I was banned from attending any of her sports events, so I’m just surprised I was invited to be here tonight!” said another parent.
The whole while I silently sat there and thought about my son and the times he begged me to come to his sports events and I would either say I couldn’t or push myself to go. I thought about how he practically begged me to come to this event with him, where he ended up winning an award and I got to listen to his coach tell me that they thought he was not only a nice kid, but also “a beautiful human being”.
I thought back at the times I wanted my own family to be there at important moments in my life, and how even though my peers meant so much to me as a teen, never would I have turned an opportunity to share a significant moment with my parents down.
There’s a balance to be found between being an overbearing parent and one who is never really there.
I won’t be too hard on myself and say that I don’t do enough for my kids, I know I do a lot. But listening to these parents share how their own teens (mainly girls, and not sure if that makes a difference) treat them as if they are themselves the children, as if the teens need to lay down rules and limits so as to not be embarrassed by the adults, as if they are simply tolerating them and it made me feel like a complete a-hole with mine – who, though not perfect, often wants nothing more than to have me around during his special moments.
I shared this with my son as I thanked him for being considerate and respectful and for being so open to share so much of his life with me.
“I guess those other kids don’t have as cool parents as I do,” he responded (all of which depends on the day, but I took it!).
I can’t say that I will be the parent at every event or every meeting, but I definitely want to be the parent that tries more than I have so far. I took for granted how much my presence in moderation means to my son and after listening to how some kids treat their parents; I realize I have a lot to me grateful for. I need to hold on to what it felt like that morning of my Kindergarten graduation.
Finding that balance is a work in progress.