It happens to me on a regular basis. I push my cart into the grocery store, bribing my 3-year-old with my iPhone to sit in the seat. I chat with her as I wander through the produce trying to find a banana that's not the same color as the limes and I bump into a Mommy acquaintance. We are both a mess, wearing faded-out yoga pants with our dirtyish hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. My youngest daughter Sadie has dressed herself: kitten rainboots (90 degrees and sunny), hot pink leotard with rhinestones bedazzled around the neck and one of her sister's miniskirts hanging off her hips.
"Hey Robin!" Tired Mommy says.
"Hey! How are you? Where are the rest of your kids?" I ask.
"Oh, soccer practice, gotta be back at the field in a few minutes. Then pick Princess up from dance. Then we have art tomorrow, and karate. And Boy Scouts. And piano lessons..." and on and on and on it goes.
I usually walk away from these conversations feeling guilty.
Thoughts race through my head. My kids don't do enough. They aren't going to know how to do any of that. If they decide they want to play soccer when they are 10 years old they are already going to be six years behind everyone else.
Last year my 5-year-old and my 7-year-old took dance. They seemed to enjoy it throughout the year, but when it came to recital time, Emma, my 5-year-old, balked. More literally? She lost her mind. She threw a fit worthy of "Toddlers & Tiaras" and refused to put on her clothes to go to the dress rehearsal. My husband was out of town on business and so I called upon the Fount of All Wisdom -- my mother.
I explained that Emma had lost her mind and was refusing to put on the most elaborate and sparkly costume I had ever seen. I had paid for her to take dance all year and now she was refusing to dance.
"I feel like I should make her do it. I'm the adult, right? Doesn't she need to learn to finish what she started?" I asked.
"But she didn't start it. You did. You signed her up to see if she liked it and guess what? She doesn't. Move on. Nobody cares," my mother said.
I let Emma off the hook. She held my hand and smiled when we dropped her older sister off at the rehearsal. She practically beamed from her seat as her friends danced on stage and she watched.
I feel guilty because my kids don't do enough, then feel guilty when I make them participate.
I came to the point where I had to make a decision for our family. By the time I pick my kids up from school I have already gone grocery shopping, cooked dinner, put the baby down for a nap, worked at least a few hours from home, done laundry and picked up around the house. After school we barely have time to eat dinner and do homework before it's time to bathe and get in bed.
I've had to decide what my kids will remember of their childhoods.
I am the anti-soccer mom. I believe in building forts and jumping into creeks. I believe in eating popsicles and letting them drip down your elbows and ruining your good shirt. I believe in spraying the trampoline with a water hose and digging in the dirt for worms. I believe in playing hide-and-go-seek until the street lights come on and your Momma has to call you inside more than once. I believe in making my kids take a bath before dinner because they are so dirty from simply being kids that they can't possibly sit at my table. And I believe in sitting at the table and looking them in the eyes every night instead of chauffeuring them all over town to events they show no interest in.
Aubrey and Emma chose not to take dance again this year. Aubrey asked if she could take piano lessons and I agreed. I asked Emma if there was anything new she would like to try. She tucked herself beside me on the couch and slipped her tiny arm around my neck and whispered, "I just wanna be wif you Momma."
That is time worth investing.