I’m sentimental. Plus, I don’t like to miss a good photo opportunity. So when Mike informed me the night before Harlow’s first day of preschool that it made more sense for him to take Harlow while I took Mazzy across town to her school, my first reaction was a big puppy dog sad face.
“But I can’t miss Harlow’s first day!”
Mike and I always switch off who drops off which kid because with different drop-off times and locations, it’s almost impossible for one person to handle both. If someone needs to go to work early, they take Mazzy. If someone needs a little longer at home, they take Harlow. On this morning, Mike had a meeting near Harlow’s school so he didn’t want to have to go back across town again after dropping off Mazzy. But he had another reason too…
“I missed Mazzy’s first day because you took her. You don’t get to do everything.”
He was right. I tend to be the parent who by default goes to important kid-related events if one of us has to stay home with the other child. Or if Mazzy and Harlow both have events requiring a parent at the same time, I usually decide which one is more meaningful to me and send Mike to the other, assuming he doesn’t care as much.
It’s not the first time I’ve missed something sentimental though. I missed Mazzy’s last day of kindergarten because I was in Cincinnati on a business trip. I missed the end of year Brownies party because I had to meet a deadline for my book. I missed Harlow’s first hip-hop dance class (yes, you read that right) because I had a shoot.
Speaking of shoots, when I missed Harlow’s first day of preschool, I assumed I would obviously be there for her second. But when I got to work and looked at my calendar, I realized the following day, I was supposed to be at a shoot in a Target in Brooklyn at 5am. That realization kinda crushed me, but this is what being a working parent is all about. As Mike put it so succinctly, “you don’t get to do everything.”
You don’t get to go to certain things because you have obligations like meetings or deadlines or events. You don’t get to do certain things because you’ve got another kid to take care of at home. And you don’t get to do other things because there’s another person in your life called “Dad” that gets to be sentimental about certain events too. Even if you aren’t a working parent, when you have two kids, both parents don’t get to do everything. Sometimes, they have to split up responsibilities and figure out what works best for everyone; not just mom.
So for all the parents who missed their kid’s first day of school, including Chelsea Clinton, it’s all good and just a part of life. Nothing to see here. There’s no shame in missing a moment because something else took priority. Some of those things will be by choice and some of them won’t, but every parent misses at least some of the things. There will be many moments in the future to come.
On the positive side, Harlow separates much better from Mike than me and I’m sure the transition to school went much smoother than if I had been there. “Harlow did great,” Mike reported over text message, with ten pics of Harlow attached. Mike had even taken out the little chalkboard sign I had used for Mazzy’s first day and wrote “First Day of Preschool” himself.
Were his pics as good as the pics I would have taken on her first day?
Nope. But I got to take my pics on Harlow’s third day of preschool. Harlow did amazing, by the way. She walked in, signed her name and after a tight hug, a kiss and love pats (an abbreviated version of last year’s goodbye ritual), she said, “Bye, Momma” with no tears at all.
Then I left room and snuck a peek through the window as she walked off to an activity table and sat down calmly and maturely with another kid. Cool as a button.
I walked away from preschool that morning knowing whatever Mike and I had done her first week, whoever had been present, we had done well by Harlow.
And that’s way more important than a photo.