To The 'There' Parent

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

You wring your hands in frustration when your kids won’t go to sleep at night — because you just really need an hour to yourself.

You balance work, bills, life, and all the things a child needs while a person floats in and out of their lives like parenting is a hobby that can be engaged in at will.

Your heart breaks a little when your kids are on their best behavior when that other parent is around.

You bite your tongue because someone has to be the adult.

You’re the “there” parent.

It will always be just a little harder for you. It will always be just a little more frustrating. But that’s okay. The “there” parent isn’t as fun as the “not there” parent. Your arrival isn’t anticipated for days — your appearance in the house isn’t anything “special.” You are the constant in your kids’ lives. A “constant” is something that does not change. And there’s comfort in that.

Your kids will never have to “perform” for fear that their actions are in some way influencing the reason you don’t come around so much. Small defiances are the way they show you they’re not worried. They can be kids. You will accept them.

You’re there.

“There” may not be exciting or fun or anything special. But the mutual understanding that there’s nothing special about your presence in the house is a wonderful gift you give your children. They’ll never need to wonder if you’ll be present, so they don’t spend any time worrying about it. It doesn’t even occur to them to act any way but authentically around you.

Maybe their eyes don’t light up when you walk in a room — but it’s because there’s no surprise. The “not there” parent is a spotlight, that makes things amplified and fun. The “there” parent is a dim nightlight that quietly comforts. The spotlight is exciting, but the nightlight is essential.

It’s hard to be “there.” You’re taken for granted, you’re expected to perform, and you’re doing it essentially alone. But the payoff is something the not there parent will never understand.

Single, present parents – if you haven’t heard it in days, weeks, months… you’re doing a great job.

You’re there.

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