I screwed up on Saturday. My son told me that he would be awarded his blue belt in aikido. Because he often makes declarative announcements, I checked with one of the organizers of the class who told me that the kids were not ready and that he could not imagine there would be a ceremony this week. So we did carpool as usual, picking my son up right as the class was supposed to be ending. Unfortunately, instead of finishing the class as usual, they ended with a test and the awarding of new belts.
My son was crestfallen that we weren’t there to see him reach what is actually the second the last belt he can achieve in aikido. He whimpered all the way home, with a “nobody loves me,” sadness that made us all feel very guilty. It didn’t really matter that we had been told that we didn’t need to come. All he knew is that he had told us to be there and we had failed him. All the other events we’ve attended over the years; the plays, the class performances, the soccer industrial games, none of it made a difference. He could only feel about the thing that he didn’t have. I told him I thought he was right to be mad, but that we do our best to be there for him as often as we can but that sometimes we fail.
As parents often do, I wondered what memories he will take with him into adulthood. Will he remember this all as “the good times?” Or will he remember the few times we weren’t there for him? I’m hopeful it will be the former, though I know there are events that are insignificant to us now that will imprint on his young brain and that he will take with them into the future. There’s not a lot I can do about that. But I do and agonize over how many there are and how to avoid them.