By: Cayla from Running, Recipes, and Reading
Tonight I took my daughter, M, to Costco and bought her board shorts, a scrapbooking kit, and a few more things she really doesn’t need. Why? Because that one hour we spent together at Costco is probably the most quality time I’m going to get to spend with her this week. And while this is an unusually busy week, it is not so unusual that my sweet little M ends up bearing the brunt of my lack of time.
Since the day she was born, M has not received the attention she deserves. When she was an infant, I left her with a babysitter while I ran around taking B to school, programs, and playdates, justifying it by telling myself that she’ll never remember it. When she turned one, I returned to school, and then work, full time, telling myself that it was ok because lots of moms return to work after a year’s maternity leave. From there, my time with M always seem to come second to teaching, coaching, running, B, and about a million other things. I left just after she got up in the morning and didn’t get home until almost dinnertime. And when my days ended and my to-do list was done, either M was already asleep or I was too tired to spend time with her.
Somewhere along the way, she became the world’s most independent child. At the age of two, she proclaimed, “I’m a big girl now,” and toilet-trained herself in one day. At the age of four, she packed her own suitcase for a trip…and did such a good job that we had her pack B’s bag too, even though he’s 3 years older than her. And at the age of six, she taught herself how to set up an email account and sent me an email with an attachment of a movie poster with a subject line reading: Can we see this?
Clearly, this was not a child I felt I had to worry about, making it easier to justify why B got more attention than her. I told myself that its not that I chose to spend more time with B, its just that he required more of my time, whether it was taking him to Doctor’s appointments instead of taking her to swimming lessons or going to his school curriculum night instead of hers. But then once in a while, I got these reminders that my not-so-squeaky wheel sometimes needed a little oil, too, such as last summer when the night before leaving for sleepover camp, she ended up in the emergency room being x-rayed for a fractured ankle. I am embarrassed to say that had it not been for that unfortunate accident, I probably wouldn’t have spent the night cuddling with M, even though I should have, considering I wasn’t going to be seeing her for a month. I am sorry that we had to spend that last night in such a miserable place but am grateful that it allowed me the opportunity to spend so much time alone with her.
M was the main reason I decided to start working part-time this year. I had visions of walking her to school in the morning and walking her home in the afternoon, with lunches and field trips in between. But then, without my consent, life got in the way. My father became very ill and passed away, my class turned out to be a major challenge, and, as you know, B was occupying more and more of my time. So this year, even though I had the best of intentions, not only was I not spending more time with M physically, I wasn’t there mentally or emotionally, either. But I didn’t realize how much it was affecting her until last night.
M, came home with her first-ever “C” on a test. Her dad and I sat her little 8-year-old butt down and talked to her about it. We discussed how we know she is so smart and how she usually does so well and that she is capable of doing better and she needs to study more and blah, blah, blah…
While we were talking, I could see her face changing. She went from ashamed to sad to angry to finally ending up at frustration. With the tears flowing, she yelled at us, “its not my fault. It’s your fault. You didn’t help me. I needed you to help me but you didn’t!”
You know what? Even though I didn’t admit it to her at the time, she’s right. I didn’t help her out. And I should have. I just didn’t know she needed help.
But now I do. And while I can’t promise I will be there to walk to her to school everyday or have the energy to lie in bed and have a mother-daughter heart-to-heart every night, I do promise to try to be there for her more than I have been.