When Priorities Collide

29 Sep

dsc_0075When I list my priorities, my marriage, my family and my spiritual health are all at the top. Not far behind is living up to your commitments. In our family we have athletes and musicians who are also students and employees, and we’ve had numerous discussions about which priorities come first. Every once in a while, we have to put those priorities to the test, or maybe those priorities put us to the test. This weekend was one of those occasions.

If you know me, you know that I feel like I hit the mother in law lottery. My mother in law does not fit any of the negative mother in law stereotypes. She loves my husband dearly and has been known to fuss at him on occasion, mostly because she would like to see him more, but she has never fussed at me. She has never criticized me or treated me with anything but respect. She has never told me how to raise my children, except to remind me that my time with my kids is limited and to enjoy them as much as I can. No, she isn’t perfect, but she never claimed to be, and because of that, neither do I. This past week was my mother in law’s 85th birthday, and Saturday was her birthday party. Both of my older sons came home from college to attend mass with their grandma and then attend her party. My youngest was there too, in spite of having a band competition, but that band competition became a lesson for us all.

A few weeks ago, we sent an email that my son would be missing that competition. One of the band directors met with my son and decided that he could go to mass and then he could meet the band at the competition, nearly an hour away. They did not take into account that my son couldn’t drive himself so he wouldn’t be the only one missing the party. They did not know that there would be pictures taken of the birthday girl and her family at the party and that there would be nearly 100 family members present. They did not know, nor did we, that by the time we finished the pictures and had a bit of dinner, the band would already be taking the field, but we made the decision that my son would stay with his family, and the band would have to compete without him. If you know anything about marching band, you might think about the fact that the band could have a hole in its formation, but my son is in the front ensemble. You might also think that the band might sound different, but our front ensemble uses microphones so they can adjust. We thought of all of that, but we also thought of something else. In ten years, no one will remember that my son missed that competition, and if they do, it will have no emotional impact; they might, however, remember my son missed the party and there could be emotional impact there. How do I know? Been there; done that people.

Nineteen and a half years ago, I became a mother for the second time. Four days after my son was born, I was coaching a club volleyball game. It was also my father’s 54th birthday, and his third week in hospice care. The tournament was supposed to be over by five, but it lasted until seven. We were an hour from the hospice location, and I was exhausted, as were my three year old, newborn and husband. I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday and to let him know we would see him the next day for his party, and I could hear the disappointment in his voice. I was so tired, though, that I couldn’t bring myself to make the trip. Instead we went home, collapsed into bed and had a great time at the party the next day. Less than three weeks later, my dad was gone, and I had missed his last birthday. Nineteen and a half years later, I have forgiven myself for a bad decision, not because I took care of myself that evening, but because I went to the tournament in the first place. I don’t remember much about the day, but I remember the phone call vividly, and I am teaching my children to have different priorities so they don’t have to forgive themselves for making bad choices like their mama did.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on time management and organization for bloggers and was introduced to the 10-10-10 rule. Basically, if you have a decision to make, you ask yourself, will it matter in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years if I make this decision? When I look at my past decision to coach rather than spend time with my father, I know I made the wrong decision for me. When I look at the decision we made this past weekend regarding my son’s band competition, I know we made the right decision for our family, and there’s a funny part to that. We are so conditioned to fear punishment that the threat of an unexcused absence from band almost made us make a different decision until we realized that an unexcused absence from band really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. We got so caught up in trying to be good that we almost made a decision that was not good at all, and we would have missed so much good because of it.

We would have missed seeing cousins we haven’t seen since their mother’s funeral several years ago. We would have missed seeing how happy my mother in law was to be surrounded by those who love her most. We would have missed getting hugs from our godchildren and seeing the expressions on our family members’ faces as my son, who is 22, grab a beer when they still think of him as a baby. Most of all, we would have missed showing our son that his crazy, huge family is important, very important, and today, I wouldn’t change that for anything.

For those who are following the journey, the book is getting close to being finished and ready for editing. I’m hoping it will publish in a few weeks. You can follow the journey on Facebook by joining our Happiest Holidays page. I’m also looking into starting another blog about travel because I was raised to have a bit of the gypsy in me and I feel the wanderlust rising again. Who knows where that journey will take me, but I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Until next week, thanks for being you and have a great day!

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3 Responses to “When Priorities Collide”

  1. Kathryn September 29, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    Helpful advice!

    • karenbemmes October 1, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

      Thanks Chris and Kathryn. It helps that he already knew the right decision and willingly went along with it.

  2. Chris Seal September 30, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    Love this article. You have taught your children some very important life lessons. Family before sports.

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