There is no greater range of emotions than those felt by parents on a daily basis. “I love her so much my heart could explode” can turn into “that child is a f-ing lunatic” in a matter of moments. Multiple times per day. Only someone you love this much could make a non-bipolar person feel both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
I had a work retreat yesterday, at a resort north of town. It was finished early, so I surprised the kids by picking them up right after school instead of from after-school care. I hid under a tree near Avery’s classroom, and her little face when she walked out and saw me could have lit up a room. She shrieked and jumped into my arms. We spun around and had a minute of pure bliss. I put her down for her to grab her backpack, and as we were walking away, she nonchalantly said, “You’re here – for once!”
She might as well have punched me in the stomach. I wanted to respond, indignantly. I wanted to shout: “I pick you up at 4:00, it’s not like you’re here all night!” “I’m at every special event at school!” “I took a vacation day to dress up as the Statue of Liberty’s for your brother’s class!” “I took the job I have, so I could have flexibility for my kids.”
Coincidentally, “active listening” was the topic in our sessions that morning. So instead of responding, I bit my tongue.
The truth is, the school year for me is just as busy as it is for them. So it’s true – I’m rarely there at 2:30. She was just stating the obvious, not intending to hurt my feelings.
So while my initial reaction was sadness and feeling defensive, I had to remind myself that Avery doesn’t care how often I’m there right at 2:30. She knows I’m there when it matters. She knows I do work I love and when she grows up she will remember me, like Chelsea Clinton remembers Hillary, that “regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always there for me.”
I hope both of my kids find passion in their careers. I hope that passion is strong enough to keep Avery in the workforce, even when she has children (assuming that’s what she wants to do). I hope that when her daughter says something flippantly, in a moment of excitement, that she doesn’t take it too personally.
At the end of the day, I know she knows I’ll be there for her forever, not for once. Forever just might not start at 2:30 on weekdays.