I ran a bunch of theatre camps this past summer. Most weeks, I did at least one, sometimes two, camps a day. Many of these camps would culminate with a small, very informal showcase where the kids performed for their parents.
One of the weeks, I had a student that was clearly very excited to be there. She worked hard, and eagerly took on as many extra solos or little speaking parts as I could give her. A lot of the kids were happy to be there, but she seemed absolutely giddy. She appeared to love just about every minute of camp, and when we rehearsed over and over, she was the one who didn't get bored. Because of this, I assigned as many parts to her as I could--and consequently, she ended up with a fairly large part in our little show. Keep in mind, however that this "show" was all of about ten or fifteen minutes long--not a big deal at all.
The showcase happened, and it was sweet. But at the end, this girl was in tears. I asked her what was wrong and she looked at me and sobbed, "They didn't come." Her parents, that is. I'm around kids a lot and I recognize their emotions. This was not the emotional equivalent of a skinned knee. This was a deeply upset, very hurt cry.
Honestly, I can relate to her parents. They are both working and are probably very busy. They most likely felt that this was not really a big deal, and perhaps I didn't give them enough notice--on and on.
Still, in spite of all those reasons this little girl was in tears and she was hurt. She had done something that was important to her and she wanted her parents there to see her. I'm sure in the long run, she'll be fine. I would imagine that the sting had begun to fade very soon after. Kids are resilient, thank goodness.
But I also realize that her parents missed an opportunity to bind her more fully to them. The fact that their absence meant so much suggests to me that their presence would have brought an equal amount of joy.
No parent is perfect. None of us can possibly do everything and I do not criticize these parents. I've been in their situation before--and surely will again. I simply can't attend every ball game or event. My wife and I try to make sure one of us is at every thing the kids do, but the realities of earning a living and taking care of other children and responsibilities mean it's not always possible for both of us to be there. I often have to teach voice lessons during baseball games, or have book deadlines that keep me working on Saturdays. I have a lot of church responsibilities, and so does my wife...
...and yet, that girl's trembling lips and the sobs in her voice stick in my mind. I guess that the thing I take away from this is that I won't be able to be at everything--but I need to do the best I can. I need to remember that these small things may seem very large to the child. And I need to make sure that my presence in my children's lives is regular and constant enough that those gaps and absences I can't control will not be the determining factor in our relationship.