"Why were you looking down when I was skating tonight, Daddy?"
"I wasn't looking down, buddy," I answered. "I was watching you."
"But I saw you looking down, too," my son responded. "Why were you looking down?"
"Busted!" my husband laughed.
And I was busted; I had been reading and responding to work emails on my BlackBerry during my son's skating lesson.
Was I proud? No. But I was proud that I had made it home from work on time to take my son to skating; something I hadn't been able to do the week before.
Yet, what's worse, not being there, or not being present in the moment?
To my son, it was probably worse that I wasn't present in the moment. When he looked up, expecting to see me proudly smiling, he saw me looking down, completely missing his skating across the ice without falling. I had missed the moment, even though I was there. I disappointed him.
He's at the age where he wants me to cheer him on. It's important to him that I'm there when he waves to me from the ice or yells from the soccer field, "Did you see me score, Daddy? Did you see it? I scored!"
These are moments I don't want to miss. But it had been a crazy day at the office, and I needed to catch up on a bunch of emails. Or at least that was my excuse.
I know my priority is to be a present and engaged dad; I do want to be there as much as I can for my kids. But I also have a fairly demanding career, and let's face it - the bills need to be paid. It's a constant dilemma many working parents face. So whether it's being busted by my son for being on my BlackBerry, or having to run out of the house early in the morning to get to the office, missing my good-morning hugs from the kids, there are always going to be times I feel guilty for not being present.
So I wonder: Can we as parents find the perfect balance?
You see, when we began planning our family, we decided that my husband was going to work part-time. Because of that decision, our kids have been able to sleep in a bit longer and lounge around in their jammies, watching morning cartoons and eating yummy pancakes - on a Thursday and Friday, not just Saturday or Sunday.
It's meant our kids and my husband have spent many afternoons at the park playing or exploring the forested trails near our house, and taking fun gymnastics and floor hockey classes together. But most of all, it's meant our kids got to spend extra time with their Poppa, something I know my husband cherishes.
But in order to make it work, we had to make choices. We live in one of the most expensive regions in the world, so a budget was a must. Our vehicles aren't fancy, but they get us places. We didn't buy the biggest house in our neighborhood, but it's just the right size for our family, and five minutes from my husband's work, so only one of us has to commute. And while our washing machine walks across the floor while on the spin cycle, the clothes come out fine - and really, who needs the gym, when you can push a washing machine a few feet back to the wall after every load.
It also made sense for our careers that my husband be the one who works part-time. So when I see the pictures of our daughter having fun in her gymnastics class with her Poppa while I'm at work, I fully admit, there are twinges of jealousy. But that jealously quickly dissipates when I see how happy my husband is to be there for those moments.
These are choices our kids will never notice, and probably won't appreciate for many years to come. I also realize how fortunate my husband and I are compared to many working parents who don't have these options.
So little buddy, tomorrow when I take you skating, my promise to you is that I'm leaving the BlackBerry at home. I will be present and in the moment and when you look up and wave, I will be waving right back.
And the emails? They can wait. While the emails may seem endless, I know these moments with you aren't.