Last weekend was intense. I left with the girls on Friday early afternoon for what I thought would be a little over an hour's drive into Maryland. Four and a half hours later, we arrived at the dance competition. Traffic is not a happy thing.
I settled the girls Friday night at the hotel and Mike and I compared notes one more time. Saturday would find me leaving the hotel at 7:00 to go to the competition. I would return at 11:45 that night. Mike would take Nick to Richmond for the State Cup semi-finals and then return home to watch Patrick play at 7:00 that night. My dad and stepmom would meet Mike in Richmond, with Patrick and Zach in tow.
Back at home, Michael would take Stephen to his State Cup quarterfinal match. After Stephen's game, he'd pick up Mike's parents and get them to Patrick's game. He'd also be sure that Patrick's clothes for prom arrived at his game so that he could do a quick change and make the last 45 minutes of the dance.
Over the course of the day, we noted some missed details: a corsage, dinner for Paddy, whether Nick would stay in Richmond or not. With enough people wholeheartedly engaged, we gathered up those details, too.
Mike and I were in constant contact via text message. Phone calls aren't really practical at a dance competition. It's way too loud.
Around 2:30, while walking with Mary Beth and Katie to lunch, it became apparent that my 12-year-old was going to play in the State Cup Finals the following day. State Cup is really big deal. A really, really big deal. Nicky is the youngest of five boys. Five super athletic boys. They have won state championships. They have been named MVP. But no one had ever won State Cup the very first time they played. No one won as a 12-year-old. Big, big deal.
I thought about how long it had taken me to go north and how much further south I'd have to go. I thought about how early I'd awakened after the worst night's sleep ever. I thought about the little girls and how they would not be happy about another long car ride.
"Mom, you have to go. It's really, really important," Mary Beth urged. Really? Is it that important that I be there? Do they really even notice if I'm not there?
"He wants us all there, Mom. He said so. As many of us need to get there as possible."
I recalled a little girl scanning the stands for a spectator who would never show up. Over and over again. She's all grown up now, but she still scans the stands and it still brings tears to her eyes.
It matters when we show up. It matters for a long time.
The girls and I went back into the competition and Katie danced her solo. I sat up front and caught her eye. Those eyes twinkled back at me. She danced beautifully and was jubilant after her performance. Then, she realized that Karoline had accidentally missed seeing her dance. She fell apart, a sobbing mess in the dressing room. "I've been to all her rehearsals and she's been to all of mine. We've worked together. How could she miss it??!!" Karoline fell apart, too. She was genuinely heartbroken to have missed it. Some of the drama, no doubt, was just plain fatigue. But most of it was this: We are a family woven together by the sharing of experiences. Being there matters.
Showing up is for both of us: parent and child. When we show up, we share the big moments; that's true. We share the highs and the lows. But we also share the little moments. We're there when they lean in to whisper a little thing. We're there when they want to snuggle in the dark. We're there to giggle late into the night as if we were all ten years old. We're there. And they know that they can find us when they need us.
I started making plans for a very early departure the next morning. A teacher happily volunteered to take my big girls, get them to Mass, and then to competition. They needed to be there all day, but they were only in two large group dances and Mary Beth wasn't even dancing. I wouldn't miss much and they both wanted me to be at Nick's game. Another friend volunteered to get them home. We'd stay in touch all day via text message.
I tucked sleepy little girls into the van and took off into the still dark fog. We took the "long way" in hopes of avoiding the traffic that had been so persistent. Sarah was predictably carsick and that set me back about half an hour. Providentially, the game before Nick's went into overtime and then penalty kicks, which put me there right on time--4 hours after leaving the hotel.
It was a good game, a glorious afternoon. Nick is the goalkeeper and he shut out the opposition. His coach called him the "Backbone of the Team" and awarded him the Champions trophy. For the little brother, it was a Very Big Deal.
We gathered as an extended family for a celebration dinner and then got stuck in ridiculous traffic all the way drove home.
Granddad can no longer get there on his own, but get there he does. Always.
My dad and stepmom. They've witnessed the highs and lows and fully appreciate the enormity of State Cup Championships.
He took his place behind the goal and there he stayed. He's been in this little brother's ear since the day he was born. This day was no different.
Big brothers: Christian, Stephen, Patrick and Zach--all determined to do what they could do from behind the fence. Christian got a ride from Harrisonburg and made it in time for kickoff. (Zach isn't "really" a brother, of course. Zach is Patrick's roommate. They were on the US National Team together and now they are together at UVa. Since Zach's from Michigan, he spends breaks and weekends at our house. Zach and Paddy are living in Charlottesville this summer.There was about a month's gap between moving out of the dorms and into their apartment, so they're living with Grandpa and Barbara. Hence, Zach's a brother;-)
For our family, showing up is often about sports and dance. But it's also about sacraments. And birthdays. It's about the impromptu balloons and steak supper the very day after the State Cup when Christian received happy news.
It's about stting in the parking lot while they practice in the rain, sitting in the dance studio for the fourth hour on a Monday because she wants you there to help her change her shoes. For some families, it's about a hike every Sunday or about an hour every day dedicated to the garden; it's the Boy Scout campout in the biting cold or the trek to the debate tournament.
Sometimes, we miss things. Honestly, lots of times, we miss things. There are nine of them and two of us. It's logistically challenging never to miss. But we are intentional and wholehearted in our attempts to be there. Showing up is what we teach our children. Families are there for one another. Showing up is the default mode. We plan to show up.
Because it matters.