Two weeks ago, I drove my teenage daughters to their school at 5:30 in the morning. They wanted to ride a bus with their friends to the state fine arts competition. I raced back home, ate a quick breakfast, then started my own hour-and-a-half drive to the competition. The odometer clicked along as I drove down the interstate…putting just a few more miles on the car.
That car takes us to basketball games, school concerts, piano recitals, and school plays. The miles are racking up, evidenced by my feeling like I have that vehicle at the dealership for regular maintenance every few weeks. Where will it take us next? I think college visits are lurking in our future.
But I wouldn’t miss these miles for anything because it means we are there for our daughters. I don’t want them to just tell me about that free throw shot they made; I want to see it, and celebrate with them. It’s not enough to just hear how they missed some key notes in that piano duet; I want to be there to commiserate, then encourage them to move on to the next event. And it takes putting a few more miles on the car to be present for those moments.
Am I going to have a meltdown if I have to miss a game? No. Things happen. But I want our daughters to know that in our world, being there for them is important.
You may not be in the season of putting those miles on the car. For you, it may be celebrating that new puzzle he finally put together by himself or hanging that picture she colored on the refrigerator. Perhaps you’re cheering from the sidelines of a local soccer game where all the five-year-olds cluster around the ball. Maybe you sit in the stands at a Tee Ball game where the kids in the outfield are aimlessly picking flowers.
But whatever your child is doing these days, be present in it with them. Look up when she calls you to see how high she’s going in the swing. Really notice when he connects the train tracks in a new way. Because we’re building relationships. We want our kids to know that we’re going to be there every step of the way, win or lose, succeed or fail.
Is it always easy or convenient? No. I’m finding it is easier in these days to make time for all those things since the physical demands of parenting are less. But when you have younger ones to take care of or housekeeping chores that keep piling up, it may not seem worth the time to stop what you’re doing and focus on what they’re doing.
Yet how much does it mean to our children to gain our approval, to know they have our full attention? Or, in this stage of mine, to know that they can look up in the stands and see me there, or if they’re up on the stage, that they can spot me in the crowd.
I’m nearing the tail end of this active parenting stage. Is there one kindergarten field trip I regret attending? No. Is there one piano recital I wish I would have skipped? Not hardly.
I know you moms that read here. You’re the ones who already go out of your way to support your child, encourage him, be there for her. And isn’t it fun when the game or the concert or the play is over, and you can talk about the highlights and laugh (maybe not in that moment, but later) over the miscues?
Before we wrap up, let’s talk about what this post is not.
It’s not a guilt trip. Goodness knows we’ve all been on enough of those.
It’s not a “Look at me! Aren’t I the perfect mom because I attend all my kids’ activities?!” I’ve been blessed with parents who set the example in this area. I have a husband who works hard and manages money well so that I don’t have to work outside the home, which gives me the time to do all the things. I’ve been granted the health and strength to make this process work.
Lastly, this isn’t a license to obsess over every move my kid makes, or to relive parts of my own childhood through my children’s accomplishments. It’s simply a reminder of the importance of building relationships. If you don’t have kids, apply this to your marriage or your friendships. Be present when you’re with that person. Practice enjoying what brings them pleasure. Celebrate their wins and grieve with them in their losses.
But back to us moms…On those occasions when you wonder if it’s worth it to read one more book aloud or exclaim over one more Lego creation or take another long drive to watch that kid play (or sit on the bench) in a game, remember our goal. We’re building a relationship with that child that will last a lifetime. And the time to invest in that relationship is now. You can’t go back and do it all over again.
And do you know what happened last Friday, the final day of my girls’ spring break? That 16-year-old and her sister, they got in the car and drove off on their own to meet friends at the ice skating rink while I stayed at home. And just like that, it’s my girls – not me – putting just a few more miles on that car.