If you have two or more kids, ages 6 and up, you already know how their activities can dominate your life.
I think this is a somewhat recent phenomenon. I don't remember my parents being at every single Cub Scout meeting or Little League game. I certainly don't remember my Mom there wearing a T-shirt with the inscription, "Rob's Mom." As far as I could tell, she spent most of her time trying to hide the fact.
But then again, my parents mostly watched me do other things, like mow the lawn and detail their cars. I don't think they felt the need to prove their love by "being there" at every supposedly significant event in my life. They took in the occasional ball game or choral concert and came to all the true "biggies" -- graduation, wedding, arraignment. That was enough to show they really did love me.
At least, I think they did.
In other words, my parents had a life of their own -- not just one lived vicariously through me and my brothers. It wasn't a particularly exciting life, but it was theirs. (Maybe they should have tried that vicarious thing.)
I'm not sure the same can be said for many parents nowadays. They seem to subjugate their own lives to those of their children, so that little remains of the parent as an individual. You look around the ballpark and wonder just when that cute little Pam Jones, whom you used to go out with in high school, turned into "Ryan's Mom." If the answer is "long after you stopped dating her," then you're in the clear.
Perhaps this trend began in the '80s, when mothers went back to work and children were sent to day care and after-school programs. Soon, neither parent was around for all the normal, everyday events like first steps and diarrhea. So all the emphasis was shifted onto "special" events -- activities, most of which are held after work hours and thus can be attended by one or both parents.
And parents do attend, because they'll feel guilty if they don't. Let's be perfectly honest: how many of us really enjoy watching a T-ball game, or a bunch of 12-year-olds doing the aria from La Boheme?
Exactly. We go out of guilt.
After all, we might not have been there for the child's first steps, but at least we can be there for his first base hit, or her first big role, as a radish in the school health fair.
Not that I'm one to talk. My wife and I are right there at the 50-yard-line, figuratively speaking (and, for 10 weeks every fall, quite literally), video camera in hand, with all the other guilt-ridden parents. But sometimes I wonder what happened to my life.
At least my children will never have to wonder about that. We have it all on video tape.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on TwitterThe Book on Facebook.