For the last couple of years, I haven’t been very available.
At work, sure. At home … not so much.
As a family, we’ve never gone away for March Break (because that’s when federal budgets get written).
I’ve essentially bailed on two of my son’s birthdays, and he’s only ten (because October is when federal elections happen).
And I can’t count the number of mealtimes and bedtimes and quiet everyday moments I’ve missed … and that’s not a figure of speech. I wasn’t there for them, so for me the number is incalculable.
But here’s the interesting thing … now that I am more available to my kids, it’s amazing how many mystery ailments — ill-defined headaches, queasy stomachs that never amount to anything — crop up.
Usually around 2:30 PM (or at least that’s when I get the call from the school office; a little voice saying they don’t feel well, and giving me grief because I haven’t yet broken the habit of answering my phone with my first and last name, briskly and with detectable annoyance).
I bring them home, set them up on the couch with a blanket and whatever they want on TV. If they ask for something they haven’t seen before, I know they’re well enough. Only real illness commands the comfort of re-runs.
I bring them home, and I realize that whether I intended to or not, I taught them not to need me when they couldn’t have me.
I don’t feel bad for working. It’s not something I regret.
But I still don’t have a decent answer when people say, “I don’t know how you did it” … and I doubt I ever will.