When my middle daughter was in the first grade, she got the lead part in her class Thanksgiving play. She was SO excited! They performed it during the school day at the local retirement home, and I couldn’t wait to see her.
The morning of the play, I remembered. I reminded my husband about it. And then we ran some errands together and completely forgot to go see the play. I didn’t even realize I had forgotten until I met the school bus and saw a very sad little girl come out of the bus doors.
“Mommy, you didn’t come.”
Those words put a dagger right through my heart, and I burst into tears right then and there. The bus driver must have thought I was insane, but I have never felt so bad for forgetting something in my whole life. At that moment, I was definitely the worst mother in the whole world. Even now as I write about it—SIX years later—I feel like I might cry.
I have a little more mercy for myself nowadays. My mom account was totally empty. I was trying to do way too much, and because of that I forgot the most important thing. The thing that was more important than any errand I could have possibly run that day. Still, even though I can look back and see that I was completely overstretched, I let my child down, and that feels horrible.
Up until that experience, I had been pretty good at always showing up for my kids’ special events, and I’d never felt the mommy devastation that sets in by not showing up. I knew they were happy to have me there, but I never knew just how much it would affect them when I didn’t come.
In the 5th grade, that same daughter had to write a little essay on something that had made her sad. Guess what she wrote about? Yep—Mom not coming to her play. I read that and had another little dagger through my heart and reopened that old wound. I’m pretty sure she’ll always remember the time I forgot about her.
I wish I could say I have shown up for everything since then, but I haven’t. I try my very hardest, but the kids are busier than ever and sometimes I have to make choices.
Last year, my oldest had a crazy Saturday where she had to play in an adjudicated violin festival in the morning, present a history project at a regional competition in the afternoon, and participate in a regional youth talent show in the evening.
I was there cheering her on for the first two, and so was my husband. But she downplayed the talent show big time and swore up and down that it didn’t matter to her if we came or not. Since it was 20 minutes away and we had a lot to do, we opted to skip it.
She got home late enough that night that I was already in bed. She walked in the door, and I asked her how the (no big deal, totally low key) talent show went.
“Oh, no big deal. We only won first place and $200.00!”
WHAT? One of those little daggers found its way into my heart again. She’d done great at her violin festival, and while her group didn’t move on to state at Michigan History Day, they had done well there, too. But I had missed the crowning achievement of the day! FIRST PLACE. First place in an area-wide youth talent competition!
And I wasn’t even there to see it.
She will still tell you that it’s no big deal. And maybe, to her, it isn’t. She isn’t the same as her sister who looks to find where my husband and I are sitting at ever concert, play, or sporting event she participates in. I watch her face go from studiously searching for us to a big smile when she finally spots us. And when she does spot us, she sings right to us the rest of the time with a giant grin on her face. I have seen her start to sing a choir concert without being able to find us, and she looked so miserable I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, “Don’t worry, Goose! I am here!”
Showing up matters.
Even if it really isn’t a big deal to my oldest daughter, I do know she’s happy when we are there. I know she feels loved when we are there to cheer her on. Being there for her matters a lot.
And then there are the times when I show up physically, but I am not really there. Unfortunately, my kids know when that happens, too. It’s usually my youngest at soccer. She’ll look at me on the sidelines with my nose in my phone or talking to another mom and not watching her every move. And she calls me on it every time, because it makes her genuinely sad.
This season I did better. And it made a difference in how she played and her attitude after the game. If the most important person (that’s YOU, moms) was there to support her, then it didn’t much matter if she won or lost or made the goal or didn’t. She knew her biggest fan wouldn’t care.
Be your child’s biggest fan.
Exactly a year after I forgot my daughter’s first-grade play, she had the opportunity to do the same play again at the retirement home with her 2nd grade class. She didn’t get the lead this time, and I had to rush from work to see it and was a little late. I got off of the elevator to find a slightly worried little girl singing songs about turkeys, but as soon as she saw me her entire face lit up.
She sang those turkey songs right to me with her whole heart and soul, and I cried. But this time I cried because I was there for my child, and I understood exactly what that meant.
I showed up.
This post is part of my 31 Days to a Happier Home series.
To see all the posts in this series, click here: 31 Days to a Happier Home
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