Trying to manage the kids’ activities is like trying to juggle while riding the spinning teacups at Disneyland.
In my house, we have three kids within a range of two years. Like a lot of families today, our children might be categorized as “over-programmed.” Most weeks we find ourselves running between competition dance, baseball, basketball, golf (or whatever sport is in season) and piano lessons. We'll even occasionally throw in in a showcase, performance or science fair at school.
We try to monitor this, but frequently an extra lesson or an extra team sneaks in here and there. And, unfortunately, there are just times where events overlap — or we can’t shuffle work around to be somewhere at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday — and we miss their event.
I feel the pang of guilt every time this happens.
If I could teleport myself between events and be at everything at once, believe me, I would. I don’t want to miss anything. But the truth is, we live in a world where that’s just not possible for our family.
If there is an upside, it’s that we are raising kids who don’t need us at every event. Even though our kids want us at all their activities, we have set an expectation that we will always try and someone will be there. It just might not always be mom or dad. It could be a grandma, aunt, papa or another member of their growing tribe — the village of loving adults who support and will be there for them throughout their lives.
And our kids’ response? “OK, that’s cool.”
Sometimes there is a request for a different kind of support we can meet that day. “OK, but can you call me afterwards?” Or, “Can dad take a video and send it to you?”
So far this honest exchange has not resulted in guilt or hurt feelings (other than my own.) Our kids understand we love them, but our attendance is not a yardstick for the measure of our love.
While the mom guilt absolutely gets to me, I don’t think the hidden lessons our kids are learning through this logistical jigsaw puzzle are bad.
I’m learning it’s OK to let go of the heavy burden of not being able to be multiple places at one time. Our kids are actively hearing us discuss the very real challenge of juggling professional careers and family, something they too will likely experience. They have an appreciation for their tribe.
We’re raising kids who know how important it is to cheer on their teammates who might really need it. They don’t know it yet, but they are also learning the value of celebrating an accomplishment — even if it’s not seen by others. They're learning they don’t need a fan club to know they’ve done a good job.
Finally, we’re raising kids who appreciate those times when we can be right where our heart always is — with them on the sidelines, bleachers and recital halls. Fully present. Their biggest fans.
Jessica Janssen Wolford is a mom and stepmom raising three kiddos with her husband, Eric, in Elkhorn. You can read more about her experiences on her blog, "A Step in the Right Direction." You can also follow her on Twitter @jessljwolford.