Your kid’s big game. The clock tick-tick-ticking away. Your kid is eyeing the stands, searching for your face. But you’re not there. And your kid’s eyes turn down, shoulders slumping, heart pit-pit-pattering.
Cue rainclouds. Cue dramatic music indicating parental failure. If you’re a parent, this is likely one of your worst nightmares.
By now this scene has become cliché, the victim of too many sappy movies. So, too, the sense of guilt parents are supposed to feel if they miss not only the big game but really any incident in their child’s life, significant or otherwise.
My own extended family boomed in the last decade. Each new kid added to the burden of parental paranoia — the fear of what might be missed — and so every waking moment gets documented. A kid in my family can’t fart in the wind without the thunder of parent paparazzi clicking and flashing and demanding could you please just move a little to the right and try to smile this time.
But here’s a cold dash of truth for you: It’s okay to miss your kid’s game.
I know. I know. Blasphemy! Hear me out.
In spite of what popular culture wants you to believe, missing your kid’s soccer match doesn’t make you a bad parent. Nor is it the end of the world. Your child isn’t going to need therapy; she’s not going to be emotionally scarred for life.
It is true that kids want their parents to come to their games, recitals, plays, band performances, etc. Kids work hard and want their parents’ approval. They want to know that you are proud of them. And, indeed, if you can go, then by all means, go. They’re only kids for so long. You don’t want to miss too much of it.
On the other hand, there are perfectly legitimate reasons not to: work, school (many parents attend night classes or earn degrees online), visiting with old friends you haven’t seen in some time, volunteering, a Bruce Springsteen concert …
For example, when you choose to work late instead of going to your son or daughter’s game, you are sending a message. You are communicating to your child that work is important, that work is a valuable part of life. Missing it doesn’t come lightly.
Clearly, if you missed every game because of work, this message is strengthened, so that your child may come to believe that you value your work more than your value her. Yet, purposefully clearing work from your calendar for every game is also sending the message that work is so unimportant that it can always be skipped.
Like anything in life, the goal is balance. Going to your kids’ events should be a priority, but missing a number of them for other priorities in your life communicates to your children that there is more to your life than just them.
While making sacrifices for your children is laudable and even necessary at points, it’s important to keep all your priorities in perspective. If you are too quick to sacrifice your own needs to fulfill all that your child desires, you are taking away an important learning opportunity from your child: Teaching her that the other people around her have needs, too, and that sometimes compromises must be reached.
As long as you are able to communicate to you child why something is important to you, you will be transmitting that she is the most important thing in your life among a host of other important things. Like, say, your spouse.
One of the major losses that comes with the arrival of children is time spent alone with your spouse. What was once a flourishing relationship become downgraded to date nights when the babysitter is available. It doesn’t have to be this way. At least, not entirely.
Try this one: Make Saturday or Sunday mornings Adult Time. Shut your bedroom door. Lock it. No kids allowed. Consenting adults, feel free to do as you please.
Again it bears mention that right now you are likely considering all the things your children need you for in the AM. Breakfast. Monitoring the television/iPad/Xbox. Getting dressed. On and on and on. Take a moment and ask yourself: Can my children honestly not do these things for themselves?
I promise you, from personal experience, a four-year-old can make her own breakfast without burning the house down.
Just like missing the occasional game, consider what your kids learn when Mom and Dad set aside time for each other every week, sans children. You are, after all, the first role model for them when it comes to intimate relationships. What value do you want them to place on marriage?
Consider, too, the recent findings released in “Psychology Today:" couples who sacrifice regular intimacy in their marriage are less happy and more depressed than couples who don’t. By taking the time to work on your marriage, you are putting time into creating a better atmosphere for your children at home.
You are the first role model for your children. For everything. Be sure to communicate to them your love and pride and appreciation. But don’t forget to show them that they are one element of your life … not your whole life.
Gartner, J. (2014, August 1). Childolatry. Psychology Today, 56-60.
Parker-Pope, T. (2010, June 3). Should I Go to All My Child's Games? Retrieved August 24, 2014, from New York Times
Weill, S. (2009, October 28). Missing a Child's Big Event -- How Bad? Retrieved August 24, 2014, from Parent Dish