Do you ever feel like just when you’re at the top of your game, you realize there’s something you missed or someone you failed to please? No matter how hard you try, there’s always a ball dropped somewhere along the way. That can be such a discouraging feeling.
It was a Saturday, and my son, Orly, had his District Thespian competition. As a school chaperone, I was going to be there from 7:30 am until at least 8 pm. I spent a few days before the competition coordinating logistics for the rest of my family. Ryan had a football game. Justin had a birthday party. Orlando would have to shuffle the kids to their respective friends’ houses.
I woke up early on Saturday morning to make sure each child had everything they needed: cleats, bathing suit, towel, etc. I left notes in their backpacks and headed off with my oldest.
Around noon, I called to check in on each of my boys and wished my youngest luck at his football game.
Everything went smoothly. Orlando traveled back and forth to catch some of Ryan’s game and some of Orly’s competitions.
At around 6 pm, Orlando and the boys came to wait for Orly’s scores as a family. I sat in the auditorium thinking how wonderful that the boys were there supporting their brother and grateful that we were together.
Just then, Ryan tugged on my shoulder and pulled me closer so I could hear him.
“Mommy, do you think maybe next week you can come to my football game?”
“Of course, my love, I love going to your games!”
“But do you think you can stay for the entire game? It’s just that I’m playing well and I want you to see what I’m doing.”
It then dawned on me that Ryan had only had 2 games this season. I had to leave early during the first game because Orly had an accident, and I missed the second one because of Orly’s competition. We were all there to support Orly, but we weren’t there to support Ryan.
That moment shed light on the fact that Orly’s demanding pursuits often take me away from the little ones. When you’re saying yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.
It’s easy to let your emotions take over in these moments. Some people attack themselves using shame or guilt. Others defend themselves using blame or excuses. Neither approach solves the issue.
I felt awful at first. And then I adopted the both/and perspective. I am both a present and loving mom and I can’t be everywhere all at once. I can do great and fall short.
Most things in life are both/and scenarios. You can want more and be content with what you have. You can be both happy and sad. You can have made progress and still have more to grow. You can love what you do and want to do it less.
The both/and perspective eliminates the all-or-nothing mentality — which often leads to self-sabotage and quitting when we aren’t perfect. Instead, I propose we take a more stoic approach, acknowledging what we’re doing well and what we can improve.
I had a conversation with Ryan and told him how proud of him I was for telling me how he felt. After apologizing for not being there, I promised to be at the next game the entire time. The next day we went for a long bike ride to enjoy some much-needed “Myan Time.”
Next Saturday you’ll find me at the football field, front and center, cheering on my 8-year-old. This won’t be the first or the last time that I am divided between the boys’ activities, or that I’ll be unable to be there for one of them for reasons beyond my control.
Nonetheless, when my kids are grown, I hope they know that I was both imperfect and I did my best.
Moment of Clarity
What situations are tugging at your heartstrings lately that you could apply a both/and perspective to? Just remember you’re not alone. Life is a constant act of shifting and tweaking in our attempts to get things right. As Glennon Doyle says, it is both beautiful and brutal (Brutifal).