One day I was complaining about something I had to do for my daughter.
It wasn’t a big something. It was just one of those little annoyances that come with parenting. I had to wait in a dark parking lot for about the one millionth time. I do it nearly every day of the week. Sometimes it gets to me, and I need to vent.
I was waiting in that parking lot when I started texting my friend Erica. We each often vent to the other about the little stuff. She waits at cross country meets, I wait at ballet. She has two sons at a gigantic university, I will soon have two daughters at a big high school. Amid the jokes and funny stories, there is sometimes an undercurrent of “I can’t wait till I don’t have to do this anymore.”
We both got a big wakeup call on February 27, 2012, when a shooter walked into the cafeteria at Chardon High School and started firing. Three students died that day and others were seriously injured. My friend’s son, then a senior, was in the cafeteria when it happened. The shooter was a childhood friend who had celebrated birthdays at their home and was prominently featured in their scrapbooks. To this day, she will run across photos of him and her boys together when they were younger.
Some things are just unspeakable. They become even more so when they happen to children. We all probably know someone who has lost a child, either through illness, accident or an act of violence. Each time, we are all thankful that it wasn’t us.
I find it even harder when the family has children the same ages as mine. Recently, a local girl lost her battle with cancer. She was the same age as my oldest. I’ve known families whose children have suffered horribly from illness or who have taken their own life. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it makes us appreciate what we have.
Some months after the Chardon shooting, my friend was about to leave the house to go to yet another cross country meet. I asked her why she didn’t skip this one, which was an hour away in the rain. She answered that she felt lucky she was able to see her son run when others no longer could.
She had changed “have to” to “get to.” What used to be an annoyance was now a privilege.
That stopped me cold. There were parents somewhere who wish they could help with homework, who wish they could disagree on skirt lengths and, surely, who wish they could wait in dark parking lots five nights a week to drive their children home.
So in this month of resolutions, I don’t promise to get organized, stop smoking or lose weight. I resolve to try to change “have to” to “get to” when it comes to my children. What I can’t promise is that I will stop complaining entirely – I am human, after all. I will, however, remember there are millions of parents who wish they could do the very thing I am complaining about.
Tonight, like most nights, I’ll be in that parking lot. It will be worth the wait.
I get to bring my daughter home.