Saturday, November 29, 2014

Showing up and giving thanks

Football season is over, thankfully for Earbaby.

Her first year as a cheerleader is in the can, with team disbanding for the time being because there is no cheering for the winter sports. At least not this year. Now that her schedule has freed up again, I wait in anticipation of the next overwhelming thing she decides to do to fill those six or seven minutes of her week where she isn't going 100 miles an hour.

But one thing I realized during the fall fiasco of planning, driving, spending, driving, working, driving, etc., is that about 90 percent of my duties as a parent now is just showing up -- usually bearing either money or food.

When EB was younger, my role was easily defined. I had to make sure she ate well, slept well, wore clean clothes, got her homework done, got to school on time, got to her activities (dance, gymnastics, piano, voice, baton twirling) on time. Her schedule was in my head, even as my husband constantly asked what was going on that particular day. I took pride in always knowing where she was supposed to be (although there was a time when my car turned to go to work when I was supposed to be taking her to gymnastics).

As she grew older, the activities changed, and so did my responsibilities. She knows how to do her own laundry, so I'm no longer responsible for her wearing clean clothes, she can do that. She can also make sure she gets up and gets to school on time, she is responsible for her homework and even though she constantly complains that she's starving (could it be that you're probably burning 3,000-4,000 calories a day?), she can feed herself.

So getting her to her activities is now the biggest job I have. We must coordinate where she is supposed to be with who can take her (usually me), who can pick her up (usually her dad), and how many other people he has to drop off along the way. We've become chauffeurs with wallets.

But the most important thing we must do is show up.

I had a recent conversation with my younger sister on my way to one of EB's games. EB had told me where the game was, but found out later that it was at another stadium. I had already gotten turned around because of a series of construction detours (coincidentally I actually drove by the place the game was playing but didn't know it at the time). When I got back on what I thought was the right track, I got a text saying the real place. Which meant I had to backtrack for the third time in a half an hour. Because I was already running late because I had to first go buy her food (she was starving!), I was headed for a meltdown.

When my sister called, I was in full martyr/meltdown mode. What is it, I asked her. Why do I have to be the one to bring everyone pizza, provide the rides home? Am I a martyr or a sap or the only parent who cares? Are all her friends orphans? Don't their parents care how they get home?

Yes, she replied with the wisdom of one whose daughter is now a fully grown and functioning adult. You will find that you're all those things. You care how everyone gets home, so yes, you will be providing the rides. But, she reminded me, she will remember that you were there.

And we reminisced about how Daddy was always there at the football games when I was on the high school dance team. And he came to every one of her dance team games and track meets. Mama worked Saturdays, so she missed those activities. But she came to the night performances of my high school chorus. I remember the one she missed when she had to try to dig the car out during a snowstorm. A neighbor helped, but I think she got there just as the curtain was closing. I understand now how frustated she must have felt.

This past season has been equal parts pride and frustration. The early afternoon games were ideal because I could try and get there for her halftime performance before scurrying off to work. But the traffic at the time I had to leave was always, always, always horrendous and several times I was in unfamiliar parts of the city. I had more near meltdowns this fall than I've had in probably 20 years. But I needed to see her, needed to let her know that what is important to her is just as important to me.

I told my sister that it was important to me to be there for EB because if I fail as her mother, nothing else I do in this life matters. Gee, dramatic much?

I enjoy football. I enjoy watching my daughter cheer for her high school team. EB, the typical teenager, kept telling her dad and me that we didn't have to be there, take pictures, take video and act as if she's the center of the universe. But I know she was glad to watch the video later and thankful that we were there to support her.

She probably will never know how important it is for us. She will only be with us a couple of more years after this and then out on her own. Right now we're giving thanks for the time we have and the opportunity to do our most important job at this stage of her life.

Show up -- bring money. And pizza.

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