Just show up. It is actually that easy.
A good portion of this year I’ve spent in reflection analyzing my thoughts, feelings, and actions as a parent. I’ve made many mistakes throughout the past 18 years, many. It took accountability and required the swallowing of my pride to not only be aware, but to apologize for the ways my choices affected others and even my own children.
I remember sitting with them both and defending their father on something because he had every right for how he felt and his distaste and disapproval for my choices. The words flew out of my mouth without even realizing. It was as if I was in the movie Liar, Liar with Jim Carey. Audibly I heard the words that had remained safely tucked away in the corner of my mind for a day I was strong enough to admit my faults. Today was that day apparently. I remember saying, “your father was right and what I did was wrong. At the time I couldn’t see how unhealthy my actions were and how they would affect you both, but he did. And I need to apologize to you both right now” and I did. I remember explaining that the way he felt about me was understandable, however, his hatred for me, being transferred to them, was where the issue was laying unfairly.
When you become divorced, you no longer have a spouse, however, your children are still your children. That relationship, bond, expectation, role, and responsibility didn’t just end when you signed your divorce papers. What your spouse did to you, whatever they put you through must have a line drawn with your children.
Using my fingers on one hand, I can tell you how many events, games, or school activities I’ve missed in the 14 years being divorced and it is less than five. On that same hand, I can tell you how many times my children questioned my attendance, my involvement, or whether I would see them during any moment in their life. And, how many times they questioned their importance or my love for them, all which are zero.
They’ve never waited for a call to see if I could make a game or a call saying that I wouldn’t. They’ve never sat at an event looking into the crowd and not seen me there beaming with pride. They’ve not looked at me with that “did you see that play” seeking acknowledgement, only to see me exiting the stadium. They’ve never sat at school waiting to see if I would attend a conference, an exhibit, or an award being received. They’ve not had me not pick them up when they are sick, comfort them when they are hurting or protect them when scared. I’ve always been there. A constant. I’m not saying this to toot my horn, I’m saying this because I divorced their father, not them. My responsibility to them as their mother never ended.
Parenting time is bologna, it is not about the parent; It is about the child. If more parents made this time about the child, I guarantee you the children would benefit. Sports, school events, doctor appointments, emergencies, holidays – that is a lot to navigate between two homes. If you try to add two calendars to that, and what works for who, it is pure chaos. I’ve never understood why parents don’t view their time with a child no different from being married. If during your marriage you would attend whatever it is, then you should be there. Unless you did something awful to the child, you have open access. That means you can and should attend anything that supports your child, whether your ex spouse likes it.
I would like to think if I did not have full custody that I would not have just slipped into a role of a “sometimes, if it works out, I may make it” type of parent. In fact, I’m certain I would attend everything I could, and everything I should. Making certain my children know they’re loved, supported, celebrated and the center of my entire universe. If their father didn’t like it, or his spouse didn’t like it, too damn bad. I’m not there for them, I’m showing up for my children.
To this day, with two 14-year-old boys and my 17-year-old daughter, I get sick if I miss something important. It feels as if I am letting them down. I would never make them miss something important to visit with me, I would attend the something important with them. We schedule our lives around our children, not our children around our lives. How do you get back that time, that optional involvement and those moments that build and fill a child’s heart with love and worth? Do you realize that 18 years flies by in what feels like minutes? And, you waste that when all you have to do is just show up!
Sometimes life happens, you’re required to work late, or maybe your work refuses to let you off to attend a recital or game. I get that; I do. That is not what I am referring to. I’m referring to the parents who choose to not attend, the parents who have the schedule, and still don’t come.The parents who have the finances for trips, outings, events but not for gas to drive to an away game, or even 15 miles down the road. The parents who attend a function that self-serves instead of giving of their self, and of their time. The parents who manipulate, are dishonest and deceitfully make the choice to honestly just fail as parents. All to blame it on the ex-wife or ex-husband. And, for what? What purpose do those lies serve?
Because here is the thing, right now you are letting them down, not your ex. In a matter of years that will fly by like seconds, there will be weddings, children and life events – and it will be you let down when the invites are no longer extended. It will be you alone without a choice because you chose anything and everything except your children. All you have to do is show up. It really is that easy.
Choose your kids. Show up. The end.