Last night was Back to School Night at the kids' new school in North Portland. And for the first time since forever, I lived within walking distance of my kids' elementary school. I was really looking forward to it! Back to School Night is awesome when you're under 12. Do you remember the excitement of bringing your parents into your classroom? Of showing them your desk and your cubby and where you put your lunchbox? Of introducing them to your teacher and how it was like connecting with celebs at a B-movie after-party? I couldn't wait to see Maggie's About Me/Ninja Turtle collage! And to meet Riv's new classmates and their parents! And to finally be the parent that could be involved in my kids' school. Ever since the marriage ended and I moved out of the 'burbs and into the city, I have had to drive 10 miles to get to Riv's school and another 10 back to the office. That's not a lot of time left for school involvement. But it is a whole lot of listening to NPR and "Ducks Don't Get Wet".
The kids would be coming to Back to School Night with their dad, his girlfriend, and her daughter. So I walked to the school on my own, breathing in the paint fume fragrance of life on the Willamette Bluff, getting flashed by a squirrel, and enjoying the waning moments of being bare legged and in short sleeves.
|well hello there.|
To the left of the cutest alien ever was an article called "My Hero" under which Riv wrote in big penciled letters: My Dad. The headline was followed by a glowing description of Dad's awesomeness and a drawing that looked a little like Tom Selleck. My very first reaction was one of relief. I did not want his hero to be something out of Minecraft. And for Riv to have his dad as his hero, well isn't that an absolute dream-come-true for a dad? I was really glad for the both of them. And I hope like crazy that it lasts our lifetime. At the same time, I became keenly aware of my body language as I read the hero article. I wanted to be crystal clear that my feelings weren't hurt. I didn't want one eye-twitch or nostril tickle to allude to any discomfort. But then I saw Riv look up at me, and his face took on a sympathetic smile and he leaned in to me and hugged my waist and he said "I put in Dad for this article, but I gave you the movie!" And it didn't matter if it was unintentional body language, or simply that River has an emotional intuition of a 60's poet, he hugged me because he saw that it was important that he should. He made me feel relevant.
How often is it really all about that? About feeling relevant at work. Feeling valued and appreciated at home. Not just feeling loved, but that if you weren't around your absence would be palpable. As a parent who only gets to see her kids 50% of the time, relevance has taken on a whole new meaning. How do you stay relevant when you're not always there? How do you stay relevant when you no longer share the same last name as your kids? How do you stay relevant when there's another mother-figure in their lives and dangit, you like her and KNOW that she's a good new family member for them, too? How do you stay relevant when you now have to explain that you are, in fact, their mom?
You stay relevant, because you are.