Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Are you ever parent enough?
An off-hand remark at lunch between a family friend and my son has me wondering if I am half the parent I thought I was. The topic was school and paperwork and more specifically, parent signatures. My son confessed to spending quite a bit of time working at replicating my handwriting. He wasn’t trying his hand at forgery to avoid getting into trouble. It was a matter of convenience.
He said my husband was never interested in signing documents and that I was never home.
“There was always a board meeting,” he said, without blame or malice. He stated it innocently, as a point of fact. “Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s an interesting perspective.”
Later, I called my daughter and relayed the conversation. She affirmed his stance.
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“But board meetings were only once a month,” I said, quick to defend myself. “Maybe there was more than one board,” she replied. “There was always an event or something, Mom. You were busy.”
I couldn’t see it at the time. I never thought my volunteering or work came with a price my kids had to pay. I prided myself on being all things to all people. Looking back, I see that yes, I was busy. I did sit on more than one board. I had a job that demanded time “after hours.” I worked hard to be present in the community and attended more than my share of meetings and events.
My kids were right. There were a lot of ”somethings” for more than a decade. A decade that included most of their school years.
The conflict, I am certain, is the reason we are all here to talk about it now. I may have gone crazy if my life consisted of nothing more than time at work and time at home.
The social creature in me needed so much more. I thrived in the chaos of overcommitting. I took pride in how far I could stretch myself. A workday that often went 10 to 12 hours followed by staffing a booth at a community event, or attending a council or board meeting or supporting another organization at a mixer or fundraiser.
I would run to the grocery store and somehow get dinner on the table before looking at schoolwork or whatever obligations home might have for me. Never to be accused on disregarding the children, I signed up to work in the classroom and chaperone field trips.
Parenting is tough
If I were to analyze it now, (and you know that I am), I would say some part of that was my fear of losing who I was as a person in the world of being a mom. I saw it all around me — women who were so involved in the lives of their children that they had lost sight of who they were before. In the back of my mind, I never forgot the fact that my children would grow up and move away. I needed to make sure there was something left of me to hold on to.
In all fairness, no one is saying they were neglected. My husband took on the role of school drop off king, so riding the bus was the exception, rather than the norm. I packed lunches for years. He and I took turns cooking meals and made a point of having sit-down dinners with all the children several times a week — no easy task amid various sports and other after school activities.
I attended the plays, dozens of field trips and countless sporting events. I ran a free taxi service. We hosted birthday sleepovers and playdates. I have been “team mom.” My husband has been a youth sports coach for decades.
Do I sound defensive? I consider it a bit of soul searching. Did I find a balance between work and home? There are some who say, “You can have it all, but not all at once.”
While my children were growing up, I put a lot of my desires on hold. I knew the time would come when I would be free to pursue more of my interests. That time is now. The kids are all grown and are, for the most part, doing just fine.
I like to think I was a living example of the importance of maintaining a life beyond the unending needs of my offspring. I like to think I taught them the importance of pursuing a career they would love. I think they saw the value and impact volunteering can have and that a job well done is the only one worth doing.
At the end of the day, I was there to tuck them in more often than not. I was there to listen and to lend support. They knew they were loved and they always knew they were first in line when push came to shove.
As it turns out, signing forms may not have been my strong suit, but they are no worse for it. They became problem solvers — and ones with very nice handwriting at that.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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