When you are raising three small children, the definition of parent sort of roughly translates to person who keeps babies alive, changes diapers, and gets drinks.
When you are raising one tweenager, one almost-teenager, and one full-fledged teen, the definition of parent takes on a whole new meaning—chauffeur, printer, editor, housekeeper, short-order cook, and warden.
On any given Tuesday I drop my oldest daughter Emily off at her dance school at 4 p.m. She is a teaching assistant and is earning money while learning important leadership skills. I’m so proud of her, but can’t remind her of this because I quite literally toss her and her running shoes out of the car door so I can race over to the elementary school to pick my daughter Isabella up from play practice. She’s playing a cheerleader in the stage version of High School Musical—it’ll be her first time on stage.
I’m so proud of her, too, but we don’t have time to discuss. We need to stop at home to eat the quickest of dinners (grilled cheese, made with three different types of bread and three different types of cheese, since, of course, none of my children could possibly agree on one kind of bread and one kind of cheese).
We then race back into the car and head back to the dance school so Isabella can have her turn to dance, and so I can then drop my son Josh off at his Bar Mitzvah class — he will be reading from the torah at our synagogue in just a few short months. Once again, I’m super proud. Once again, I am plum out of time and energy to tell him. Because I then have a very small window to race over to Staples to buy the list of Important History Diorama Supplies for an 8th grade project and buy a new water bottle because one just broke on the school playground during recess.
I watch Isabella dance. I watch Emily dance. I snap a few iPhone pictures for future proof. I was there! I was really there! We pick Josh up and head home just before 8 p.m. for homework overlording, reading log signing, and bedtime negotiations.
I spend so much time with my children on Tuesdays, but I spend no actual time with them.
I mean sure, there’s time to tell me I cut the carrots in the wrong way and bought the wrong orange juice. There’s time to tell me that I bought the wrong poster board and forgot to get the highlighters. There’s time to tell me that I’m the worst mother in the world for forcing Isabella to both shower and brush her hair. The nerve.
I can’t help but wonder what my kids will remember from all of this time. Will they appreciate all these things I did for them—or am I just raising three entitled kids who, like many other kids of juggling parents, just expect these things? Will they realize the time and energy I spent, or did they just come to expect that these things just happened for them? Will they remember the fact that I shlepped all over town, will they remember how great their projects were, how delicious their dinners were? Will they even think about how their laundry got done and put away, and how I sat and tested them on their spelling words, and brushed the knots out of their hair?
Or will they only remember how tired I was at the end of the day, how sometimes short-fused, sometimes a little — or a lot — yelly, how I rushed them, how I never got the chance to tell them how proud of them I was? Will they even remember the three different cheeses and the three different breads?
When I was a kid, my laundry got done and put away, I showed up at my piano teacher’s house once a week like clockwork, I spent a lot of time in a tutu and on various dance stages, I had the very best diorama projects in my class, I got to school on time with a lunch and my permission slips signed and my reading log filled out. But if you ask me what my mom’s job was, I would have told you that she was the CEO of a nursing home and left it at that. I wouldn’t have told you that she was a juggler who made sure everything got done.
But maybe that’s okay.
Photo: Ali Martell