Thursday, May 17, 2012

On mothering: Being there

Today is field day at Riley's school. The morning started with a walk-a-thon to raise money for Peletonia, followed by field day games and a family picnic at lunch. I volunteered for just an hour this morning to help with the walk, during which Riley basically ignored my presence. Because there were more volunteers than were needed, I felt pretty useless, but I loved watching the kids have fun and raise money for a good cause. I certainly didn't feel like my presence added any value to Riley's day - it didn't seem that he cared that I was there. 


After a few hours of work, I headed back to school for the family picnic. Riley and I found an empty table, which quickly filled with Riley's friends, none of whose parents came to the picnic. They started talking to me about how their parents "never came to anything", that their parents "didn't even know what happened at school"*. Riley and I listened quietly while the kids talked, and one boy got up and walked away in tears. 

It. Was. Heartbreaking. 

When there was a lull in the conversation, Riley looked up from his food, sat up straight, and said,

"Well, my parents are here all the time, for everything."

And he smiled at me. 

He wasn't bragging - his friends know this. Bryan coaches two of those boys in soccer, I coach his basketball team, and I've sat at the lunch table with Riley and his friends more times than I can count. During nearly ALL of those lunches, I felt invisible, like he really didn't care that I came to have lunch with him. I know Bryan frequently feels unappreciated, and sometimes down right abused by the boys he coaches. More than once I've wondered if it was worth it to continue to take time out of my day to show up to lunch, to spend hours on the evenings and weekends coaching boys in sports and trying to mold them into respectful, resilient young men. Today, I got my answer.

It is worth it. 

Showing up, even if he rolls his eyes at me, ignores me, disrespects me - IT MATTERS. 

I know the future holds many more eye rolls, many more disrespectful comments, many more moments when I feel like my presence is unwanted, or doesn't matter. And in those moments, I'm going to hold on tight to this memory, and remember that 
BEING THERE MATTERS. 


*I'm not judging these parents, or suggesting that they are absent from the lives of their children. I know many of them, and they are loving parents and lovely people. They, like so many working parents, have schedules that prevent them from being at school during the school day. I'm also not suggesting that I am somehow a better parent than they are. I am simply fortunate to be in a position where my schedule is flexible enough to permit me to show up and be ignored at Riley's school. :)

7 comments:

  1. I had a similar experience at a park about 6 months ago. My kids are too young to ignore me yet... ;) But when I saw the other little girl's tears as she talked about how she wished her mama could take her to the park instead of going to work the way I took my own children, I was suddenly grateful all over again for this gift I have. Excellent post.

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  2. this is good to read :)

    I remember my mom being there when we got home from school almost every day. they were farmers and did what they could to be there.

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  3. So good. Thanks for this post Emily.

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  4. I volunteer at our elementary school and totally get this. The kids in my boys' classrooms see me so often they know me by name and get so excited for me to be there. I couldn't put my finger on why that was until I read your post. It brings me such joy to be there, not only for my own sons but for some of those kids who don't have someone to cheer them on at everything. I am so grateful that I can be there and know that I won't always be able to do it. (I'm having another baby later this summer and it will be a lot harder to be there with a newborn.) Thanks for sharing your insights.

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  5. When I read your first comment about Riley ignoring you, I thought I bet he knows and appreciates that you are there (even if he's too much of a boy to admit it). It must have been nice to hear him actually say it. I hope I get opportunities to be ignored like that when my kids get older!

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  6. Love this post... I would be heartbroken too, tears in my own eyes for that boy who left. I'll not soon forget the lesson you shared here- thank you :) Hope you have a nice week.

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  7. A thought provoking post. I have often wondered if it is worth it to work from home one day a week, so I can be with my daughter - it is stressful to manage everything those days, but now I think it may be worth it.

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