The Right Stuff?


I try not to be a cruise director for my kids. It's not my place to plan every activity in their day

By Brenna Berger

True confession time: There is a part of me that wishes I hadn’t told my kids that we were selected to attend a special military family education summit before Friday’s space shuttle launch. I feel incredibly guilty because my two kids are space fanatics, but the thought of driving to Florida tomorrow is not remotely appealing. A good mom wouldn’t feel this way, right?

If you keep up with the latest in parenting news, you know the Mommy Wars are being waged on several fronts. On one, we have Working Moms versus Stay-at-Home Moms and on another, Tiger Moms versus Slacker Moms. I’ve opened a third front in my own head—The Mom I Think I Should Be versus The Mom I Am. Let’s just say I wish someone would call in the drones so I’d stop beating myself up.

I’ve been a de facto single parent for the past four years. My husband’s work and deployment schedule has had him in the role of special guest star in the family. Sometimes his story arc lasts for a few months, but we all know it’s temporary and he’ll eventually have to leave again. We had applied to the NASA program as a way to spend time as a family and start building some new memories together, but when they pushed the launch date back a week, his work schedule got in the way and he won’t be able to make the trip with us.

This is where the guilt comes in. I know if he were coming with us, I wouldn’t think twice about making the trip down to Orlando. It’s only because I’m having to go it alone again that I’m dreading it. It’s selfish of me. I should be thinking of how much it will mean to the kids—but they can’t drive!

Quite simply, I’m tired and suffering from a slight case of Facebook Mothering Inferiority Complex. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to be friends with a bunch of super moms who wouldn’t dream of disappointing their children by denying them the opportunity to hobnob with astronauts. Then again, I don’t serve birthday cake for breakfast or routinely have indoor camping trips complete with tents in the living room and s’mores made over the open hearth, either.

True confession number two: I actually tried to replicate the indoor camping trip that one friend posted on Facebook with my own kids last summer. The kids were on board with the entire idea until it was time to go to bed. The first to bail was my daughter. “Why should I sleep on the floor when I have a perfectly good bed right down the hall,” she asked before grabbing her pillow and kissing me good night. My son and I looked at each other and realized she was right. The campout—camp-in? —was officially a bust.

I try not to be a cruise director for my kids. I don’t feel it’s my place to plan every activity in their day. While I feel guilty for not being their giant playmate, I am very proud that I have two creative kids. They rarely come to me and tell me they are bored because they are too busy building entire Lego cities or fashioning old toilet paper rolls into rocket ships. I’d like to think that I’m not a lazy parent, rather, I’ve taught them how to entertain themselves. And if I may be Facebook smug, I think it’s a rather rare skill these days.

If you are traveling the I-95 corridor and you see a slightly frazzled woman with two kids, give me a wave. I’m taking my kids to Florida for what I know will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m just sorry I forgot how exciting it was for a certain third grader to stand outside on an April day thirty years ago to watch the launch of the very first space shuttle. It was far away, but close enough to see the little dot riding the top of a bright orange flame. This time, she’ll have the best seat in the house, close enough to see the joy on her children’s faces as they witness history.

This article was originally published at PBS This Emotional Life . Reprinted with permission from the author.