Mama Mantra: You Can’t Make Them All

Posted September 19, 2023 by Prairie Wife -

You can’t make them all.

Every school party, every concert, every game or tournament, or after-school event…you can’t make them all.

You can’t make them all, and that’s okay.

Over the years, I have often had to repeat this mama mantra to myself.

First, as a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) when the idea of taking a baby and toddler to a 10-hour-long wrestling tournament literally made me cry.

Or when I had a home half full of sick, cranky kids and a husband who wouldn’t be back for two more days. As I dialed up a friend to see if they could take my older son to the game, I held back negative thoughts as I asked for help so I could stay home.

As a SAHM, I recall the guilt I felt when The Cowboy offered to take the Cowkids to watch their brother play football and leave me at home alone to have a break. After all, it wasn’t like I was working and had a “real” excuse for missing his game.

I heard all the voices saying, “They’re only young once,” “This time goes by so quickly,” and “They need to know you care about what they care about,” but I was so tired…so so tired.

And I told myself that missing a few games didn’t mean I didn’t love my kids.

We have talked to our children and explained that with our large family and all the activities they want to do, we can’t be there for everything.

Not only is it physically impossible for us to be in three or four places at once, even if we divide and conquer…but the amount of money it takes for a family of 7 to travel and eat out two meals in one day or to spend a weekend out of town is no small number.

The Cowkids have repeatedly assured us they understand we can’t make all the games. They know we love them and have shown their appreciation for the gear we’ve bought them, the rides we’ve given them to practices, and the 2 a.m. pickups after an away game. The loads of laundry we’ve washed so they can do homework or sleep in longer, and their favorite snacks and sports drinks that are always available to be thrown into a backpack.

They’ve told me they know that we can’t make them all.

I know that it’s unrealistic to expect that I can be there at every event when we have five children…yet I still found myself in tears this Fall.

It’s Cowboy J’s senior year, and I am only going to be able to attend one of his home games for the football season.

As an emcee and speaker, my events are booked years in advance. I make sure I leave every other weekend open so that I have time to go to sporting events and be with my family. As the Football schedule rolled out this year, I gasped when I saw that I would be working every home game but one. I cried as I texted our school secretary and said a prayer that the one game I could attend was going to be Senior Night.

And thankfully, it was.

I agreed to be this year’s “football mom” and have been helping coaches as much as possible with sign-up forms for filling the coolers and team dinners and creating graphics to support our teams. All in the hopes that it would somehow even the emotional scales for both my son and me.

I was feeling more settled about the Cowkids’ games and events I COULD make when something happened that absolutely enraged me and sent me right back down into the mom guilt spiral.

Whether on purpose or on accident, a hurtful comment was made after I mentioned how upset I was about missing so many home games. 

Another mom said, “Well, I would just tell them that I couldn’t work and go to my son’s games.” More was said after this, suggesting how I could move forward with my schedule so my kids could be more important than work.

But it was that first seemingly small comment that stung like hell.

After all, I quit my job at the radio station to have more time with my kids, yet here I was, STILL missing things.

I went home and cried and vented to The Cowboy.

Who patiently listened and mentioned all the things I do to support our kids.

From buying those snacks to timing dinner so it’s ready for them when they get home from practice. Attending Booster club meetings and all the times I had stopped what I was doing to drop off uniforms and equipment that were left at home.

And then, in his soft, quiet, and calm way, he said, “I was gone for nine years and missed everything, and you tell me that doesn’t make me a bad father. Why is it different for you?”

Why indeed.

I’m not saying I’m not going to cry over the things I miss in my kids’ lives ever again.

But for now, I have my perspective back where it belongs.

You can’t make them all.

But you can send them off with a kiss and a clean uniform. You can text them good luck. You can show them the pictures and video your friend took and share how excited you were when you saw that volleyball serve. You can make sure their band concert outfit is clean and unwrinkled, and you can watch the video shared on Facebook with them later that week. Laughing and hugging them after you listen to their successful clarinet solo.

You can’t make them all.

But you can tell them you love them as often as possible and show them that just because you can’t be there for someone the way you want to doesn’t mean you don’t care.

You can’t make them all, and that’s okay.

Photo Credit: Skyla Lee Photography, Annette Johnson, Nicole Peters

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