Today I was driving back from my little ones’ school after dropping them off. The radio was playing, the sun was peeking through the trees and as the mile to my house passed I thought about how, for almost five years, I’ve shown up for my kids and done this routine. Every day, every morning, every month over and over. And then, then I thought of their dad who doesn’t show up for them anymore. Behind on child support, calls sporadic, has only seen them a week in a year, no birthday cards, nothing, really. They feel guilt about it, they wonder why they don’t matter, but as the years tick by the months and the days, they have moved forward.
I see it.
As my van stopped I thought about those boys – about how I know how Samuel likes his sandwiches cut and that he likes extra mustard on it. I thought about how right before I dropped him off we went over his spelling words and that the secret code this week was – oa, ew and ui. I thought about the blue ribbon his brother earned for having one of the best speeches in his class. I thought about how it was about leadership and how this small spitfire of a boy is, even at ten, a true leader. I thought about how he went as a Youtube star for “who do you want to be when you grow up” day and how I think that he probably could be just that.
I thought for those minutes more and pulled up in my driveway and walked in to meet my older kids who were getting ready. I thought about how I knew that my daughter loved whipped berry cream cheese and Twizzler Pull-Apart licorice. I thought about the reports and grades and love I have for my boys. I looked around at our house – at the memories we’ve made, about how day after day after day I show up for those kids.
It’s easy for me to get bitter about the years of no child support and how he’s almost completely absent in their lives. No money stings the pocketbook for sure, but no money stings the heart too. I try to not let them know how much it bothers me, but sometimes it does because I wrestle with wondering why they didn’t matter that much.
But then I have to let it go.
I have to or else I will become bitter and resentful. My kids don’t need me bitter and resentful and out for the jugular. My good friend, a dad, deals with that – the ex that forgot kindness and treats him so poorly. It’s hard for me to see that, especially when he shows up for everything and it’s met with bitterness. He teaches me about letting go of all of that pain and sadness and instead shows me how he loves his kids despite.
I could go on and on about how showing up when it’s convenient is wrong or that paying child support isn’t just about money but is really a testament to caring for those kids. But, honestly, I’m learning. I’m learning that with or without that money in my checkbook it isn’t my job to worry and to be angry.
It’s my job to show up.
To know the details.
To know that my eighth grader likes Odwalla Chocolate Protein drinks. Or that my kids have doctor’s appointments next week. Or that my eleventh grader’s brace band colors changed to pink and purple. I know that my Sam doesn’t like scratchy pants or tags and sometimes I cut them out before he even tries them on. Or how my Caleb was a perfect 1950’s Greaser for Halloween. Or about what their backpacks look like.
I know. Because I show up.
I’m invested in them – beyond superficial, beyond money – but for their hearts.
Sometimes we get a Taco Bell super pack of tacos. We’ve gone on vacations together to Virginia, Memphis and Gulf Shores. I know where everyone likes to sit in the van too. I know that at exactly 7:33 the bus leaves with my middle school boys. I know which brand of gluten free chicken nuggets to buy. I know that Settlers of Catan is a favorite game and that we are missing one of the blue road pieces. I know that to get to school, to get into that line, that I need to leave the house between 6:44 and 6:47 or else we might be late.
I love being their mom.
I love it so much that I will show up for them day after day after day.
I will never grow tired of showing up, of fighting for them, of giving of myself for them.
That’s what I’ve learned.
And friends, that is what they will remember. Maybe you aren’t divorced, but the truth still stands for you. In fact, no matter what your parenting story is the truth is you need to know the details. And you will, when you show up. You need to be invested, to show up, to love them for them. It’s such a magnificent power when we know them because we are there for them. You see, life will throw your curveballs, like just today I found out I have a broken chip in my ankle and probably surgery. So you know what happened? My kids showed up for me. They knew that I loved the orange fuzzy blanket and to watch Food Network shows.
They know me, because I know them.
They show up for me because I show up for them.
You know what matters in the lives of our kids?
Knowing them. Not forgetting them or popping in on occasion, but really giving of yourself for them. Know those details that you can’t buy, can’t pop in and know, but the details that you learn because under no circumstance will you not not show up for them.
So keep being there.
Trust me when I tell you that you will be just fine. You will make it through. You will find joy and happiness. Your kids will remember the showing up, the being there.
Love, mothering, parenting, it is in the details.