When I was involved in extracurricular activities, I would often look in the crowd for my parents and find that they weren’t there. I would search frantically for my mom or dad and feel my heart sink. The realization that no one cared came quick and harsh and I felt as if I didn’t matter. Why couldn’t they just be there for me and pretend like they were interested in the things I liked to do that I worked so hard at? Why couldn’t they find a way to show up for me? I needed someone to be there. I needed someone cheering me on.

Now that I’m a parent, I understand those empty bleachers and seats.

So, my children, believe me when I say that I’m sorry if I can’t always make it to your dance recitals.

I’m sorry if I miss a football game.

I’m sorry if I can’t always go on the field trip.

I’m sorry if I miss your school play.

The hard reality is that I can’t always be there.

I promise I will make every possible effort to be there for everything—but sometimes, I am going to fall short. I’m not always going to be able to get off work or be home in time. I will do everything I can to be there for as much as possible, but sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. Your dad won’t always be able to be there, either.

But you know what? You have supportive grandparents who love you and will be there when we can’t. You have aunts and uncles. You have a whole network of people who will be there when we can’t be. So I promise you that someone will always be there.

It’s not that we aren’t there because we don’t want to be. Believe me, your dad and I wouldn’t miss a single moment if it were up to us. It’s just that sometimes, we don’t have a choice because we have to work. We work hard so that you have these opportunities. We work hard because we want you to have every chance to do the things you want to do. We work hard because we do love you and you are important to us.

And sometimes, we will have to go to your sibling’s activities instead of yours. But again, someone will always be there to cheer you on.

I promise, you will never have to look in the crowd and not recognize anyone. I promise there will always be someone there. Someone to remind you we are so very proud of you. Someone to remind you that you are seen and you are loved. You, and the activities you enjoy doing are important. I never want you to feel like these things don’t matter to me, because the truth of the matter is they do matter and I enjoy being there and seeing you grow, learn, and morph into the person you will become. It may not seem like it, but you are growing right before my eyes, and I’m afraid if I look away for just a second, I will miss it.

I will always do my best to be the one in that seat, but there will never be an empty seat. If I’m not there, know that I wish I were, and I want to hear all about every second I missed.

Anastasia Smothers

Anastasia is a mother of four children under four and a proud wife to a veteran. When not with her children, she works full -time and also has a part-time position as a substitute teacher.