There are moments while parenting when I sit back and think, "Well, this is a huge waste of time." There are times when I'm stuck driving to yet another soccer practice, choir concert or driving a car filled with loud teenagers home from a club meeting and I think of all the millions of things I could be doing instead, things I'd rather be doing.
Last week, my high school daughter sang the first three songs of a two-hour choir concert. She didn't have a solo. She wasn't even in the front row. I couldn't even see her from where I was sitting. She was done within 10 minutes, but she was required to stay for the entire two hours.
I struggled with the decision to stay and sit, knowing that I wouldn't see nor hear her after those first 10 minutes.
Now that I'm a single mom, my to-do list rivals Santa's, only Santa has an army of elves and I'm flying solo. A good week is one in which I accomplish half of what's on my list. I decided to sneak out after her songs were done, run to the grocery store and circle back to pick her up.
Until I saw that brief glimpse of her hand from the third row on stage during her last song, and I knew I wasn't going anywhere - that's what 24 hour grocery stores were for, I reassured myself. In three years, she will be away at college. Chances are that she'll be hours away having a wonderful time with other young adults I'll likely never meet no matter how many times I visit.
It occurred to me that at that moment in time, she was still with me. While not next to me in the seats, she was in the auditorium with me. I was willing to stay for the remaining 1 hour and 50 minutes to be near her, in that space in which we both shared the same stale, re-circulating air and the same mediocre, sometimes painful music. I was willing to stay for another glimpse of her hand.
During the intermission, she surprised me, walked over to me and asked, "Well, Mama? What'd you think?" My 16 year old with dancing eyes and flushed cheeks found me and sat next to me the rest of the performance. We bantered under our breath like a telethon. Our heads were so close I smelled the jolly ranchers on her breath.
Parenting is hard work. It's not for the weak, not for the selfish, not for the meek nor afraid. Parenting often means sacrificing your wants or needs or boxing them up and putting them on a shelf for another time. It isn't about how many pictures you can post on Facebook nor how many likes those pictures generate.
Oftentimes, parenting is doctor's appointments, homework, carpooling, meals and laundry - so much laundry. Things that only other parents realize you do. Most of all it's about showing up, being present and cheering the loudest for your child, not because they are always right or perfect, but because that's just what a parent does.
Sometimes all you see is the glimpse of her hand or his shadow on the wall. Sometimes you catch the brief sound of your child's laugh in a crowd. Sometimes it only takes that quick flash of his smile as he runs onto the field or bounce in her step as she crosses the auditorium over to where you are and asks, "Well, Mama? What'd you think?"
It's time for me to let go of my anger and resentment. It might not always be a weekend carnival, but it's my life with my kids. That's really all that matters.