After putting in a full busy week, with countless other parents, we flocked to the sidelines to cheer our little youth athletes on this weekend. In our particular case, we were up by 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday and not back home until around 6 p.m. Each time this happens, I always think back to my own parents and the parents of my friends and think God bless the parents who always show up. I see them in a whole new light of heroism now.
Sometimes I drive 30 minutes in one direction to watch one kid play one sport, then rush back home to grab another kid and drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction to watch him or her play. This is probably a pretty typical weekend for any parent with multiple kids in sports and activities. We ping pong from one town to the next. If there’s any way I can squeeze in watching a kid between another kid’s games, more times than not, I’ll make the trip and figure it out.
And recently as I was rushing to my 11-year-old’s lacrosse game, as I was driving past the field, just in time for her game, she saw me. A smile broke across her face, and she started waving. It reminded me at that moment how much showing up matters to our kids.
I’ve spent 20 years teaching teenagers, trying so hard to understand this turbulent time in their lives. Again, they seem so big, yet they’re still children. They still want us there. They still want to see our faces on the sidelines. They want to know we were there to see that great play or moment they’ve worked so hard for. Or to comfort them and tell them they’ll get it next time when the game didn’t go their way. Showing up matters.
One of the things that surprised me the most when I became a high school teacher and coach was how many parents didn’t show up. It was heartbreaking to read some of the essays of kids just wishing their parents would have seen them play, dance, perform, or whatever it was they did.
I was the teenager once. I remember being in high school, anxiously looking to see if my dad had pulled his big Pepsi semi into the parking lot yet or if my mom was hurrying to the field still dressed in her dress clothes from the office. If my dad knew he couldn’t make the hour drive back to leave his Pepsi semi at the Pepsi plant where he worked, he’d park it in the high school lot, watch my whole game, chat with me after about how it went, and then make that long drive back to his plant to leave his semi and then head home for the night, usually not getting home until 8 p.m. to just get up and do it all over again.
My mom to this day is still the hardest working woman I know. She gives her work 110 percent, but when we were kids (now as a working mom myself) I can’t even imagine how many times she asked to leave early so she could make our games. So we could look up and see her watching us play.
Showing up matters. I don’t care how tough the kid seems. I’ve worked with some tough kids. They make you want to believe showing up doesn’t matter. But I’ve read their essays—showing up matters.
I’m in this turbulent time of parenting tweens and teens, and there is so much I don’t feel like I know, so I don’t say this as a parent but as someone who was once that kid and now as a teacher—showing up matters so much! Though you maybe spent the whole weekend at a baseball or softball tournament, lacrosse, wrestling, some kind of recital, or at soccer like us, maybe even running back and forth between ball fields to try to catch as many of your kids doing their thing as possible, and now you’re getting home on a Sunday night needing a weekend break from your weekend, don’t think about all the things you didn’t get done this weekend or all that awaits you ahead on another busy week . . . go to sleep in peace, knowing you showed up for your kid.
We may screw this parenting thing up a hundred different ways to Sunday at times, but I guarantee you as someone who was that kid, you showing up again and again is how you will rock and win this parenting game.