Today is parent visiting day at my daughter's school, which means parents are invited to stand in the backs of classrooms and see where their tuition dollars are going. Our daughter asked us to come. She wanted to show me her photography porfolio (she got a solid A in photography, by the way). I wanted, so wanted, to be there, but today is also the day that two major stories are due in, and I have to edit and move them to my editor in chief by the end of the day. One is likely the be in good shape, the other is from a writer I have never worked with before, so I have no idea what to expect in terms of the work needed to get it to a place where I can send it to the editor in chief for her sign off. She is very invested in both stories, and both are potential legal nightmares, so both require careful and hyper attentive handling.
Today is also the last day in the office for the people who got laid off, and I and a couple of the other editors are supposed to be taking the woman I worked so closely with for 11 years to lunch. A goodbye lunch. I could miss it, I guess, but it would look callous and fickle. I want this woman to know how much I have appreciated her as a colleague and as a friend. Today, with her spirit still reeling from the "why me?" questions, I really need to be there to show her this.
I can't find the words to convey this to my daughter. The sentences that come to mind just sound as if I'm putting everything else ahead of her. I know this is what it means to be an adult, that one is always faced with these hard choices. But I wish I could be standing in the back of her classrooms today, watching the light dancing in her face because she is happy that her mama is there.
I wish I could be as pragmatic as my husband. When our daughter stood in the dark at the foot of our bed at 6 a.m. and asked her sleeping parents in a plaintive, guilt-inducing voice, "Are neither of you coming to my school today?" he had no problem saying no. Even though she looked crestfallen, he didn't follow her around as she got dressed trying to make sure she understood the reasons why neither of us would be there. When I asked him, "Don't you wish you could go?" he answered, "Of course not. This is high school. Who wants their parents hanging around?"
And yet, my girl wants us.
Guilt. It feels like self-recrimination and sadness. Useless and maybe misguided. But there.