It’s an age-old question for the parents of schoolchildren this time of year: Is it okay to pull your kids out of school early or start them back again late to go on a cool family trip? What about missing sports practices, games or performances?  What if it’s not for a big-deal trip but just for a visit with Grandma or a family-night-out? What if pulling your child out means he doesn’t start or sits the bench? How do you weigh your obligations to the team versus your family? How do you model your value of education without missing out on family opportunities?

I was on the fringes of a conversation yesterday at Tom Thumb (well-known gathering-place of Lake Highlands Moms). I won’t divulge names or even details that might rat anyone out, but one asked the other if her son would be missing any of the “mandatory” athletic practices being held over the holidays. One mom said yes, her son would miss due to a family ski trip. The other wouldn’t think of it – team obligation and all. Both are responsible moms, devoted to their children and committed to their sons’ teams. So who was right?

The clearest difference in their cases was birth order. Okay-To-Miss Mom was referring to the baby of the family, and she admitted she would never have let her first born miss a thing. We-Never-Miss Mom and her husband had clearly discussed the hardship of being held captive by their first born son’s athletic practices over the holidays but had developed a that’s-just-what-we-do attitude.

Though all my kids are now grown, I’ve been there, done that. In fact my husband and son missed most of the last three Christmases while he played soccer in the prestigious Disney tournament. Looking back I can you, you can’t put prestige in your family photos.

When we were growing up, missing a few days of school was no big deal. We’d make up our missed assignments, and maybe get an “S” for Satisfactory instead of an “E” for Excellent in Attendance. Many of today’s Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses move quickly, and making up a week of school is a challenge for today’s over-scheduled youth. A dip in GPA that knocks you out of the top ten percent is a big risk to enjoy a family trip.

But what about that trip – isn’t there some educational value to that, too? Okay, maybe you’re not going to the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids in Egypt or even Washington, D.C. or New York City. Maybe you’re just going to Destin or Breckinridge or San Antonio or Aunt Nancy’s. Where do you draw the line?

And what if not coming to the game means your team loses, not coming to Wrangler practice means you drop your partner, not coming to the game to cheer means the squad doesn’t get to do stunts? How do you balance your commitment to family and to team? Let me know if you have the answer. We weren’t able to solve it standing in Tom Thumb.