Being there when you can’t be there

It’s always been easy to support two of my children’s athletic endeavors in the past.

My middle daughters are only a year apart, and they always played the same sports. They were on the same softball team for a few years. Even when they were on different teams, I could usually catch both games. One year, I even helped coach both of their teams.

When they were both in junior high, it was a dream. I could watch back-to-back volleyball games to support them both equally.

That all changes this week, though. Starting Monday, my wife and I have to start playing favorites.

My freshman daughter surprised us by deciding to play junior varsity softball after not playing the last few years. My eighth-grader really stunned us by deciding to try track and field. On Monday, they both have events at the same time. At least both of them are in the same town.

We’ve missed events before, and we’ve regretted it every time. Usually when I miss something, it’s because a work commitment overlapped. We usually make sure one of us is at every event, though.

My wife and I snuck away for a few days earlier this year and missed one of my eighth-grader’s basketball games. Apparently, we missed the best game of her life, when she scored a career-high 12 points. You know we regretted missing that.

I’m not sure where this obsession with seeing my kids’ activities began. My parents missed plenty of my sporting events as a child, and I turned out mostly OK. I don’t particularly remember wanting my parents at a game, aside from senior nights.

But this situation will force us to choose which child we want to support on a given night. My wife and I plan on “dividing and conquering” as equally as we can, with each of us hitting the same number of conflicting events for each child.

You almost have to do that as a parent as kids become obsessed with guessing who your favorite child might be. I love to tease each of my four children when they’ve done something good, saying, “You know, you’re my favorite.” I’ll pause a while to let them gloat… before saying their age.

That’s really the challenge. You don’t want them to think you love any of them more or less. The truth is you do love them all the same, but sometimes you enjoy being around one of them a little bit more or less. The teen years can be waning years for enjoying being around them, for instance.

In the same way, I know all of my children love my wife and me the same. They don’t always like having us around in equal proportions. Turnabout is fair play, after all.

Ultimately, I hope one day they look back at all those times we were there with fond memories. I know I will.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.