On September 5th, I was scheduled to speak in an event in Puerto Rico. A few days before the event, I was notified that it was postponed and rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. When I received the new date, I immediately felt a pang in my heart, realizing that my middle son, Justin, was scheduled to perform in a play that very day. I told the event coordinator I would have to get back to her regarding my availability. The mommy guilt set in. I thought to myself: This is just the beginning. I’ve chosen a career that is going to separate me from my kids. Is this how it’s going to be, me traveling and missing my kid’s important events? This is not something I have to do, this is something I’m choosing to do. Am I making a mistake?
I felt so conflicted that I even thought maybe speaking was something I was going to have to put on hold for now. Suddenly I heard the horn honking. I had forgotten that my husband and kids were waiting for me in the car. I jumped in and told my family about my enormous conflict. “Guys, I just got the call about my event in Puerto Rico. It was rescheduled to September 30th which means I would miss Justin’s play.” Seeming unfazed, my husband replied “well Justin has three performances, so technically you’re only going to miss one out of the three.” I was insulted.
“I am his mother. I should be at all his performances! I’m going to tell them I’m not available. I can’t go.”
My husband challenged me “Shouldn’t you ask Justin how he feels about you missing the play?” Convinced my son would never let me go, I turned around to face the back seat. “Justy, how would you feel if I was out of town on the day of your performance?”
“Mommy, you not going to your speech makes no sense, you wanna know why?
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I have three plays! If you go to two of my plays you get to see me do what I love AND you get to do what you love. But if you go to all three of my plays, then you miss out on doing what you love. That wouldn’t make any sense. You should do your speech.” I felt so proud of that little six year old for his wisdom and his sense.
My other two boys and husband chimed in in agreement. My poor supportive husband added “yes, and on that day, all of his family is coming to see him perform so I will be there and so will his grandparents, godparents, and cousins.” Of course, that comment made me angry…because I am crazy (edited by my husband). Its not that I didn’t want Justin to be surrounded by family on his big day. It’s just that I felt I should be there too. I guess I was feeling a little jealous.
What is most embarrassing about this post is that I speak about being there even when you can’t be. This is precisely my topic! But when it came to my own parenting, I couldn’t handle it. I understood my son would be fine even if I missed the play. I mean, I KNOW the things I could do to be present for my son while I was gone. What I had not accounted for was how I would feel to be away from my family while they were having fun and celebrating. Seeing myself outside that picture was very painful.
It became crystal clear that there was no choice in the matter. I had to go to my speech. That’s the thing about having a calling: it’s not always convenient and it certainly isn’t always ideal. Sometimes you have to make tough choices. On the day I’d be missing out on a nice family outing, I would carry my father’s legacy. I would lead by example. I would share a message with parents that may not have a choice in the matter the way that I did. I would show my kids that you can’t always take the easy way out, and, more importantly, that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Although they are my priority and they are loved, there will be times I have to miss something that is important to them because I have to do something that is bigger than us. Ironically, this time it was Justin teaching me that lesson, not the other way around.
I’ve always heard and reiterated the phrase, “80% of the things we worry about never happen,” yet I consumed myself with a scenario that unbeknownst to me was never going to come to fruition. Sadly, I was worrying about something that was so important to me, not realizing that we were going to confront a crisis that was so much bigger than all of us. The recent catastrophes in Mexico, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and Houston make all the petty things we worry about seem so insignificant. Seems like before I can teach lessons to my kids, I should learn them myself.
Today, I find myself looking for ways to be there for Puerto Rico, even though I’m not physically there. Isn’t life ironic?