A few weeks ago, my wife and I were treated to an after-school presentation on the “Marriage of Q and U.” This is an annual event for the toddler classroom at my kids’ daycare in which two children play the role of Q and U and all the other children are wedding guests whose gifts are the other 24 letters of the alphabet. One by one, each child comes up, recites a few lines, and sits down on the opposite side of the stage. Wolf’s gift was the Letter J.
“My gift to you is the letter J.”
“J is for Jeep. J is for Jelly. J is for Jam in my belly.”
He had the lines down on the first day, but I really wanted to push his showmanship to the next level, (whatever that means for a three-year-old).
We practiced for a week, a casual stance with one leg turned to the side as he presented his J, rotating his letter slightly to the beat of his lines, and to top it off, an exaggerated voice of satisfaction as he rubbed his stomach and said “Jam in my belly.”
The dude nailed it and I was ecstatic.
Then, less than a month later, Wolf had his “Gym Fun Graduation.” Gym fun is a once weekly agility, strength, and flexibility class that serves as the basis of future gymnastics skills. It is taught in the school gymnasium, but it is done by an outside consultant as an add-on to an already exorbitant daycare price.
I missed it.
It wasn’t deliberate. I had some papers to grade for my college class and forgot to set an alarm to remind me to head over for the mid-morning shindig.
I felt bad about it for a few minutes. My two boys are awesome, even by the standards of parents who are oblivious to their children’s flaws. I owe it to them to be as attentive as possible.
But the ultimate goal is to raise two independent and well-balanced individuals. That involves paying attention to their myriad plays, cantatas, games, and faux graduations. It also means taking a step back and letting them have their space, understanding that they cannot and should not be the center of the universe.
Social media wisdom would have us believe that children should be the center of our world. This is no surprise as two successive generations have been raised by helicopter parents who shadowed every move of their children. Arguing with teachers over objective grading schemes is common. Manslaughter over a bad call by a referee at a youth sporting event is not unheard of.
Yet despite all the extra attention foisted upon children, they are seemingly less ready to take on the challenges of adulthood. I see this both as a college professor and as a parent observing the other children in my son’s classroom.
I want to be there for my kids. But to be there for them, I have to be there for myself. I’m not going to feel bad about missing the gym fun graduation. I’ll make it up by picking him up early for swimming lessons at the county pool.
I'm a military spouse to my US Navy Lieutenant Commander, Lauren. We are proud parents of Wolf and Bear. When I'm not supporting her career and raising my two wild animals, I teach a law course at the University of Florida, run ultramarathons, and write. I'm the author of "Parenting as a Contact Sport" and currently in search of a publisher. Most stories I publish are proposed additions to a sequel titled "Daddy Hold My Milk: Famous Last Words of a Toddler. Twitter: parentingsport