Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best Mom Tip #157: Ignore the other moms, Part 2

In addition to feeling self conscious around more stylish moms (see yesterday), I also feel as though I'm failing as a parent when I'm around the highly active/organized moms.

At curriculum night at Charlotte's school, every mom who signed up to volunteer for something pulled a giant organizer/coupon holder/wallet thing out of her purse. Why is it that big? What else should I be writing down? Why do I not understand the appeal of couponing?

At the bus stop another mom asked me if Charlotte wanted to take chess lessons after school with her daughter. I have nothing against chess. I actually like to play chess. But I was taught by my dad (who never let me win, by the way) and we didn't have to pay 250 bucks a month for the privilege. I'm sure that chess club would help her problem solving skills and her ability to think logically, but I kind of like it that she just comes home. She does her homework. Then she watches TV and then goes outside to play. I call them in for dinner by yelling and banging on the window. It's like my life in 1982 all over again, but without Stretch Armstrong.

Why must I be exposed to the parents who have their kids taking violin lessons and practicing their math skills on Saturdays? Chess Mom also showed me the "easy" 300 piece puzzle her 6-year-old had just put together. She said it was easy because, since it is of the United States, there are words all over it. Yes, but in order for that to be useful, you need to know where Montana is in relation to Tampa. What 6-year-old knows that? This kid also speaks Hebrew and can play the piano. Charlotte's only hope of becoming bilingual is if my mother begins teaching her Appalachian Hill People as a second language.

There are the kids on our neighborhood swim team who also take private swim lessons year round. There were the moms at gymnastics who had serious conversations about scholarship opportunities for college gymnasts. I constantly feel like maybe I'm holding back my kids' potential because I haven't signed up for enough stuff.

Don't get me wrong, they do have some outside activities. It's just that they are only allowed to have one at a time. And I don't assume that they will ever make any money off it, become smarter from it, or suddenly discover a latent superpower. I know that occasionally, making sure that your kid is constantly striving to do better at their extracurricular activity works out for them. Tiger Woods has been playing golf since he was 3 and he's made a little money. Britney Spears' mom had her singing and dancing by 5 or so as well. But, honestly, they both seem like pretty crappy spouses.

I'd rather have my slightly-above-average-intelligence children with healthy relationships and lifestyles than have them be super-rich. Maybe they can be both, but I'm not sure I can think of a billionaire who also seems to have normal kids. Maybe Warren Buffet, but I can guarantee that whatever his mom did, it didn't involve a giant calendar and chauffeuring her kids to 4 events a week. They probably only had one car anyway.

Like I decided yesterday, I'm going to try to stop the comparisons and make my decisions based on my own kids' needs and wants. I hope, when they're adults, they don't have to spend money on a therapist because I didn't challenge them enough. I can just hear them complaining, "I could have reached my full potential if only my mom had signed me up for soccer AND chess club at the same time." Even if they do, I'm certainly not paying for it.


  1. I may be one of the few dads that occasionally reads your mommy blog, and I thought that little tidbit might just remain my own secret, but I liked this post too much not to comment. Go Sally for standing up to the Cruise Director Moms.

    We have moms at our school that do the same, and then ask me for ideas that might explain why their child is struggling in math. Somehow doing homework at 11:30 at night has become the new norm. I can barely hit the right button on the t.v. remote at 11:30, much less solve quadratic equations.

    I like your reference to "life in 1982." In 1982, my "outside activities" were playing in the creek, riding bikes endlessly around the neighborhood, enjoying crabapple wars with my neighbors, and burning bugs with a magnifying glass. Sure I stink at soccer and understand chess just enough to enjoy that one Harry Potter scene, but otherwise I think I turned out okay.

    Great encouragement for those of us who a) loved the 80s and everything about that simpler time, b) value healthy relationships over superpowers, and c) probably won't be able to even afford to put our children in three activities a week.


  2. There are other dads, Scruff. Some even complain when I don't write often enough because they are bored at work. :) I'm afraid that we may not be able to afford to take all of our kids to the dentist, let alone to multiple activities. I'm with you on the crabapple throwing, although in my neighborhood we threw creek bed clay and pine cones when we played war. And it was awesome.

  3. I was actually just talking with Todd Fields about this (yep, shamelessly name dropping!). He mentioned that they were the "weird" family that didn't sign their kids up for sports on a regular basis. He has 4 boys. He said he had heard a former Ga Tech football player speak on this subject to a group of parents. It was this man's opinion that people who sign their kids up for all these activities at 18 months old in hopes of getting a college scholarship would be better off doing one of two things: investing the money they spend on these activities year after year in a college savings account or playing the lottery. You apparently have a higher chance of winning the lottery than raising a scholarship athlete. Also, if you have ability and talent for a sport, enough to get a scholarship, you will have that ability at 12, even if you don't start the sport until then.
    This made me feel a lot better about our decision to also be a "weird" family. I'd actually like to see my children somewhere other than in the back of my car as I shuttle then from one activity to another. Never mind that I'd rather spend that money on a vacation, not another registration fee.
    I am completely on board with raising emotionally healthy, well-rested children. I figure the chances of my kids being well-known for some sport or activity are slim, but their chances of getting married and having their own families are pretty high. I'd rather them be good spouses and parents than a great athlete any day.
    Great post!

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