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'mommy and baby' photo (c) 1980, Natalie Lucier - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I spent today reminding myself why applying sunscreen is a good idea.

At least, I didn’t actually realize it until dinner time. All day, while I was outside with my kids at a track and field meet, it didn’t actually occur to me to reapply it, or to remember to do the front of my neck. I did the back of my neck. I did my arms. But not the front of my neck. Or my nose. So I look like Rudolph wearing a red bib.

My youngest daughter’s neck is also really burned. And so are her arms, and she did reapply the sunscreen. But she did so without supervision, and you should never trust children.

Other than that, though, the meet was a great success. The girls won quite a few ribbons, and we had a rip-roaring good time. They fought through hurt ankles and tiredness and feel really good about themselves and their efforts, and that’s what counts.

What occurred to me at the end of the day, though, was how many parents weren’t there. All of us homeschooling parents were, but a lot of the kids in school were there without parents. Whenever my kids do anything, even if it’s minor, I’m there. My husband tries to be there. He’ll sneak out between patients to catch them in a piano competition. My mother schedules her clients around seeing the kids.

And since the kids are involved in a drama, and music, and track, and sports, it is busy. But I’ve always been there. I have pictures, and memories, and the girls know I was involved.

These moments add up. It’s not just that you miss you child winning a ribbon. I had to have a big pep talk to Rebecca today before the 800 m race (that’s maybe half a mile, I think). She didn’t want to do it. She was afraid she’d be tired, that she wouldn’t win, that she’d get out of breath. I tried everything to no avail. And then finally I said, “you’ll be mad at yourself tonight if you don’t try.” And she gave me that look that said, “I know”, and she dragged herself to the starting line.

She placed 4th, and I was very proud of her. And she’s proud of herself.

But if I hadn’t have been there, she wouldn’t have run it.

And that’s not all that happened. Katie met up with a friend she hasn’t seen in a while, and I had a chance to reconnect with the mom. Now we might get the girls to play this summer. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t have been there, either.

I know what is going on in my kids’ lives because I am there. I know what scares them. I know when they want to back out. I know when it’s okay to let them (I let Katie back out of the 400 m today for some very good reasons, and it worked out all right), and I know when to push them. And it’s because I’ve been there.

Some moms work, and there’s no way around it. You need the money. But other people are just too busy, and figure their kids don’t really need them there. But your kids need to know they’re important, and that’s why you have to put in the time. You have to be their cheering section. Quality time is no substitute for quantity time. And that’s a fact. It’s not politically correct to say it, but it’s true. Your kids need you. So be there!

You can read more Mothering Monday posts at Bow of Bronze.

If you want to figure out if you can survive on one income, listen to my talk, Making Decisions Between Work and Family!

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