When my oldest first joined her basketball team, I was excited to get to cheer her on from the sidelines.
In the beginning, I was there for every practice and every game. Then, one day, out of nowhere, she asked me not to stay.
I was hurt, but I obliged, respecting my daughter’s wishes. But it didn’t take long for the guilt to set in. Not only did I feel like I was failing as a parent for not going to every game (and for having a child who didn’t want me to watch), but I was overwhelmed with worry about what other parents would think of my absence.
The problem with parenting today is that it is no longer just about you and your children. It has become a public affair, each moment oozing with ogling know-it-alls who are eager to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong.
When I would pull up outside the gym to pick up my daughter after her games, parents would give me supercilious side glances as they escorted their kids to the car. Some would encourage me to go to the games anyways, while others seemed sympathetic - as though my daughter was rightfully rejecting me for good reason.
When I read the headline of a recent story shared on PopSugar titled, Parents, Going to Every One of Your Kids' Games Matters More Than You Know, my heart sank. Had I made the wrong choice? Should I have followed her into every game anyways, despite her requests for me to refrain?
The author of the article explains that having her parents at every game proved that she could rely on them, that her parents - despite both having busy careers - never missed one game.
She emphasizes that a parent’s presence at every game is not only a must, but that it matters more than we could ever know.
After reading the full article, my guilt subsided as I realized that this was one person’s perspective - she certainly didn’t speak for everyone.
My daughter later explained to me that she hadn’t meant to hurt my feelings, but that it was hard for her to concentrate when I was there, always in her periphery. When she explained it to me in her own words, I understood. Sometimes our children just thrive better when they’re not thwarted by our presence. Knowing that I wanted to be there was enough for her. She needed some time to find her footing and perfect her skill.
My daughter has always been independent. She loves having her own personal space, and respecting her wishes was a symbol of my trust - something that for her, means more than my presence.
With three kids spread across eight extracurricular activities, many of which are on multiple days of the week, I will likely never be able to make it to every game, dance recital, band concert, or karate belt test, and that’s ok.
If my children find my attendance to be an unwanted distraction, I’m happy to give them the space they need, and if they’d prefer to see a familiar face on the sidelines, I’ll be there as often as I can. Whether you’re supporting their sports from the sidelines, or just letting them know that you will support them in spirit, they will love you just the same.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.