Getting My Priorities Straight

"It was just two hearts exchanging love across the gymnasium."

One of today's most precious commodities is time. No matter how many gadgets we buy, books we read or classes we take, there is no quick fix to busyness.

As a working mother, I constantly juggle the demands of work, personal interests, household errands and my children's school activities -- games, practices, music lessons, rehearsals and performances. These activities are designed to enrich my children's lives and develop their skills, talents and values.

However, mothers can be so busy juggling that they lose sight of the true purposes for the child's participation in these activities. From infancy, children seek parental approval and attention. Parents heap tons of encouragement and praise as the baby learns to crawl, pull up, walk, speak, hit the ball — the list goes on and on. As the child grows older, simple learning tasks are replaced with other activities such as sports, cheerleading or music. Parents are always on the sidelines or in the audience cheering, cajoling, clapping and encouraging.

However, sooner or later, a working mother is faced with a major conflict between some personal or business commitment and her child's game, play, concert or other event. She can't be in two places at once. Her heart is ripped into pieces trying to decide what to do; what is best for her child; what would a good mother do; how to make a bad situation into a win-win for everyone.

I experienced one of those decisive situations when my daughter's school district hosted its annual "String Fest," where five school orchestras are packed into a gymnasium along with a sea of family and friends. The participants were to arrive about forty-five minutes earlier than the event's start time so that the musicians could tune and warm up their instruments. As often happens, the event occurred during a crunch period for both my husband's and my jobs. We arranged for my teenage son to drop off his sister at the appointed time.

My daughter, who was very much aware of my time-management efforts, attempted to cut me some slack by saying, "Mom, you don't have to come tonight. Just be there on time to take me home." I couldn't have asked for a better solution. I wouldn't have to fight the rush-hour traffic for my thirty-two mile commute. I could work a couple more hours. By then the traffic would be light, and I could make it to the gymnasium in record time. Besides, how many concerts had I already attended? I could afford to miss this one, right?

After pondering my choices, I decided it was not OK with me if I was absent. Even though my daughter had given me her permission to miss the concert, it did not justify my absence. I felt guilty enough for my not taking her to the concert. I left work and arrived just before the concert began. I found a seat in the bleachers several rows directly across from my daughter's orchestra. I had her in my line of sight, but in the ocean of faces, she would never see me.

As I watched, the warm-up session ended and my daughter put her violin aside. I saw my daughter's eyes as they began to scan the audience row by row, looking for a familiar face. When her eyes found me, I was waving my arms in that embarrassing way mothers do, and we exchanged smiles. Her body language said it all. I had "made her night." No promotion, raise, bonus or anything could ever pay for that moment. It was an image that is forever etched in our hearts and memories and could never be recorded with a camera or camcorder. It was just two hearts exchanging love across the gymnasium.

Cover image via SpeedKingz I Shutterstock

This story is from 
Chicken Soup for the Soul: On Being a Parent: Inspirational, Humorous, and Heartwarming Stories about Parenthood © 2011 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

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