My eldest son is 11 and at this very moment is at middle school orientation. I’ll save my Big Feelings about that for another time. Today I’m thinking about Mother’s Day this coming Sunday. I’ll be a few hours away watching my preteen compete in a soccer tournament. We’ll spend the weekend there; eating packed sandwiches and continental breakfasts, drinking Gatorade, and swimming in the hotel pool between games.
This is the perfect way to spend Mother’s Day weekend. Not because it’s relaxing, or insta-worthy, but because it’s a true picture of what it looks like to Mother. To Mother is to give. This is becoming clearer as my kids get older. Sure, the early years are full of their own kind of sacrifice. Mostly sacrificing sleep, independence, and some sanity to the newborn haze and subsequent toddler antics.
But this soccer tournament weekend really highlights the ways parents give of themselves long past those brutal first years. There will be hundreds of kids playing soccer in this tournament. Their parents are just like us, busy. Financially fragile. Tired. Proud.
These tournaments are put on by local soccer associations which are run by a group of dedicated parents who volunteer their time. The concession stands will be handled by moms mostly, raising money for summer tournament travel fees. The teams are often coached by parents, too.
I will forever be inspired by the way parents show up for their kids. Not only on the soccer field, but every day. Everyday where we wake up early, find socks, sign agendas, and do daycare drop off with too cool coffee in the cup holder of the crumb speckled minivans. We go to work where we are expected to leave our family life at the door, function as professionals, but be back out the door in enough time to get Kid 1 to tennis and pick up Kid 2 from band. Then of course dinner and Quality Family Time before bedtime with enough time to catch some sleep before we do it all over again tomorrow.
In this flurry of activity it can be easy to forget that parents are people, too. People who tend to their own childhood scars and to their credit scores. Parents are people who are sometimes in love and sometimes in pain, people who want promotions and a satisfying sex life and who have not taken a childfree vacation in 5 years. We go to yoga and we manage departments where we need to be available and clear headed to lead teams at the office.
This realization astounds me. When I zoom out just enough to remember that parents everywhere are tangled up in the elusive and audacious balancing act of showing up for themselves and showing up for the kids who need them, I am humbled and honored because collectively we continue to figure it out. It’s messy and riddled with imperfection, but the path is paved with the stories of parents before us who also figured it out. This dance is not unique, and thank God for that. I will sit on the sidelines on Mother’s Day next to moms and dads who are deep in the trenches of parenthood, just like me, and I’ll admire all the ways we show up for our kiddos, for each other, and for ourselves.