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What to Do When You Can’t Make it to Your Kid’s School Event

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I don’t travel for work often. As luck would have it, however, the one time this year that I had to be at a conference in Arizona, my son had a poetry reading for his first grade class in LA. The kids had worked up to the event all year. This was the big one, the event that all the parents of older kids talk about as the most memorable part of the year for the students and parents alike.

I was crushed when I realized the dates of my work travel and my son’s school event were the same. Although I’m a working mom, I’ve always had a flexible schedule that’s allowed me to be at my kid’s school events, even if that meant I’d be up late at night finishing that day’s work.

I felt like I was letting my son down by not being there for his big event. I also felt embarrassed; what if I was the only parent in the class who wasn’t there?! I wanted to be there, and I hated to miss out.

After talking to other working parents, I discovered that there were ways I could be involved, even if I wasn’t actually at my son’s event. Here is the best advice I received. 

1. Be honest about why you can’t make it, whether it’s a work trip or a big meeting. If neither you nor your spouse (or extended family) can be there, make sure her teacher knows. And ask another parent who will be there to look after your kid for the day.

2. Don’t lecture him about why you work. Your kid is allowed to be disappointed that you won’t be at his school event; that doesn’t make him an ungrateful child. And while it is great that you are working hard to make a good life for your child, it doesn’t take away the disappointment a kid feels when mom or dad isn’t available.

3. Ask the school if you can come to a dress rehearsal. I wish I’d thought of this before my son’s poetry reading, but I didn’t. Your kid will feel how special it is that you made the effort and you’ll get to see what she’s been working toward. Plus, you won’t have to get there early to get good seats! 

4. Call home the morning of the show. You’ll want to wish him luck. And leave a special note or tiny trinket when you leave that your spouse can give your child the day of the show.

5. Don’t give yourself a guilt trip. You’re a good parent and your child’s happiness and success does not depend on you being with her every moment of the day. She will forgive you for not being there, so it’s important that you forgive yourself.

6. Check in to see how the performance went. He’ll be excited to tell you. Chances are, he will have had so much fun that the sting of you not being there won’t hurt so much. If your child says, “I didn’t notice you weren’t there,” take it as a compliment. It means he was having a good time. That’s what you want!

Even though you spent most of your meeting or work trip looking at the clock hoping your spouse would send pictures, your child probably had a great show or performance despite your absence. It’s always challenging to miss our kid’s big events, but a relief to know they can thrive and succeed without us.

Any tips you’d like to add to my list?