This thing, the over-zealous, one-upper attitude of parents starts at a VERY young age. And it's gotten worse over the years I've noticed.
If you're a follower, you've already heard the saga of the Snowball formal. Well, this competitive attitude is also running rampant amongst the parents of Daughter #2 - who is only 7. I don't understand it, and I'm starting to question why I entertain it.
Daughter #2 got an invitation to play on a basketball team. She was VERY excited, although she'd never played - but she knew what a basketball looks like and had a general idea of how to dribble it and understood that the ball goes through the hoop. How, she did not know - but she knew that was the ultimate goal. So me, naive as I am, signs her up for the team. As i read the information sheet, which included NOTHING about game days, times or practice commitment, I noticed the entry fee was $75. WTF? $75 for a 7 year old to play basketball? It seemed a little high to me, but I'm also the one cussing the price of groceries in my outloud voice as I meander the aisles and people look at me like I've flown the coop of the nuthouse. So I paid it. And Daughter #2 was delighted - FINALLY, after spending countless hours, days, weeks, months watching her older siblings play some type of sport, it was HER turn in the spotlight. She, was also naive (takes after me a lot) in thinking there was a snowball's chance in hell that her older siblings would actually attend her games to watch her. Like her, (again, two peas in a pod) she thinks it's rude they don't show up to cheer her on.
Anyway - turns out said team practices EVERY Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Ummm, is this not about Sunday dinner time? I mean, IF a family were to sit down together on a Sunday to enjoy a more elaborately prepared meal than other days of the week, wouldn't one have to be cooking said meal at about that time to avoid eating at midnight? Not to mention, Sunday is a day of rest and worship. It's NOT a day to have to run one more kid to one more perceivedtobenecessary function.
So, I boycotted the whole practice thing. Shit. They're 7, how much practice could they need? They go to the game, throw the ball around, shoot for the opposing team's hoop, you laugh, they cheer, it's a game - it's fun, right? Well let me tell you, that all changed after the FIRST game. As they took the court, it became quite obvious who's kid had NOT been to any practices. She blocked her own man, she stole the ball from her own man, she looked awkward and lost on the court. I was embarrassed. Not because she wasn't good, but because we had not been taking her to practice. I felt inferior - I knew the other parents were thinking, "SEE! You should bring her to practice - she sucks and she's bringing our team down." I heard them. I did.
I sat quietly during that game, afraid to cheer her on or call her name - someone might figure out WE are the guilty parents who don't have enough umph or give-a-shit to take our kid to practice. Somehow they all knew who we were though - "It's fine - she'll get it!" They encouraged us. How the hell did they know she belonged to us? Daughter #2, being 14 and smarter than us, suggested they figured us out because they'd never seen us at practice before either. DOH!!! They lost that first game. By A LOT. I think they might have stopped keeping score at one point, even.
We committed to take her to practice weekly from thence forward - for HER sake - so she wouldn't seem so awkward and unsure of herself on the court - you know - an esteem building exercise. Well, WE committed, but the husband does the taking to the practice - I'm at home cooking that Sunday dinner I mentioned earlier. The next game rolled around and we lost again. The next game rolled around and I sat in the front row - and something happened during that game. Something happened to ME. I became one of them. I think it was because I wasn't sitting directly behind someone so I felt safe to yell - I'm not sure though. But I yelled from my seat, "GET THAT BALL - YOU DON'T BACK DOWN WHEN THEY GRAB IT - YOU GO AFTER IT AND YOU FIGHT." Huh? Did I just tell my darling little angel to fight? You're damn straight I did. And she followed my orders. She got in there and she fought. Nevermind the fact that the team of 7 year olds were playing a team of 12 year olds and they didn't stand a chance in hell of winning - I mean how could they? The other girls' arms were placed on at about our girls heads. They didn't even have to TRY to intercept (is that what you call it in basketball) the passes - they could just stand there and the ball came to them. But I kept yelling and barking orders from the bench - GET IN THERE - IT'S ONLY GOING TO HURT FOR A MINUTE - GET THAT BALL. And she kept doing it. They lost that game 327 to 0, but I was proud - our girls, my girl had been scrappy and aggressive. All the things I am not.
I haven't sat in the front row since then. Namely because I do NOT want to be one of them. The parent that coaches from the bleachers. Like the one of the other mothers, that continually shouts her daughter's name followed by instruction. And everytime the mother shouts the little girl's name - the little girl stops, dead in her tracks, and looks to her mother and lo and behold, the ball gets stolen from her. The mother doesn't seem to notice the pattern here, but I have and I refuse to be like her. So I sit, safely behind another parent, where I would be too embarrassed or humiliated if I yelled in their ear the entire game. It's better for all of us that way.
Last night, the game for the 7 year old team was at 8:00 p.m. WTF? Who plans this shit? I mean, 8:00 is damned near bed-time at our house. Well it IS my bedtime. I had to take a nap after dinner to make sure I could stay awake to even go to the game. THIS, my friends, it over-zealous parenting. There is no good damned reason games for kids that age should be held that late at night. NONE.
I made a note to myself early on with this team - next year join Optimist ball - where it's recreational, practices are optional, games are at reasonable times on Saturday mornings and the players don't even know where the hoop is. That's more my speed.
#2 sign of over-parenting, one uppityness this week for Daughter #2's age: Valentine's Day party at school. The teacher sent a list of the students' names. I appreciated this. I don't know who they are, it's a new school and half of them have imaginary names that I've never heard of. So the list was helpful. On the list there was a note from the teacher: "We will be making Valentine sacks in class for the children to use for their Valentine exchange. " It's GENIUS!!! What a concept! Incorporating a school planned, sponsored activity into your lesson plans. It was a sign of true collaboration amongst the various teachers who handle the curriculum. The ART teacher was actually IN TUNE with the fact the CLASSROOM teacher needed Valentine sacks. I like this new school. They have their shit together, I thought.
As I read down through the note - I saw some small print at the very bottom. I dug out my bifocals and held the note at arm's length so I could make it out. Finally after much struggling, I got 'er read: "In the past, some parents have asked if their student may bring a decorated Valentine box from home. If that is your preference, then that is fine, but we will be making sacks in class."
WHAT THE HELL? What kind of parent (again - I attribute this shit to the mothers more than the fathers) - honestly WANTS to spend the time and money making a Valentine card box unnecessarily? Who the hell wants to vacuum up glitter and sequence for the next 6 months? Who wants to scrape glue off their table? It's just one more example of how some parents (mothers) cannot freakin' leave well enough alone. They don't need a damned fancy box that costs $25 to tote around $1.50 worth of Valentines that I'm going to throw in the trash as soon as they go to bed that night. It's not necessary. But by GOD if Sally brings in a box that's all pretty and shiny and sparkly, I can assure you Daughter #2 is going to feel inferior with her stupid handmade sack.
Daughter #2 did ask for a shoe box. I'm setting her straight at an early age though. I've learned my lesson the hard way with the others. I looked her square in the eye and replied, "I don't have a shoe box for you, you do not need a shoe box, you are making a SACK in school which is adequate for your Valentines. Furthermore, only people who feel insecure and ashamed of their overall being will have boxes and YOU are NOT that kind of girl. You are smart, you are kind and you are pretty - you do not need some superficial item like a sparkly box to prove your worth in this world."
She didn't know what all that meant, other than she wasn't getting a box and there would be no decorating or glitter for her.
She left for school this morning, carrying her Valentines in a plastic grocery bag. With a HUGE smile on her face, dressed like a cowgirl - because it was a special day and on special days you dress like a cowgirl. THAT is the way SHE rolls and THAT is the way I'm going to continue to encourage her in this journey called life.
AND - I don't have to vacuum glitter!