Tall is now eight years old, and Short is six. The Husband and I figure that they have their whole lives to compete, why burn them out now? We are, apparently, the only parents in a three-mile radius who feels this way.Yesterday evening after The Husband got home from work, we changed into swimsuits and headed over. He and the boys got right in, while I sat in a patio chair watching them. Immediately to my right was a mom coaching her daughter. Her daughter was seven years old, muscular and tan.
The coaching went beyond being “helpful” and “encouraging.” This mom made her daughter aware of her every transgression, real or imaginary. It went something like this:“Lucy! Keep your legs together. Lucy! Better to belly flop than go deep. Lucy, now shake your hands out. No. Not like that. Come back here. You were doing so much better yesterday, what happened? Watch me. See? Like this. No. Do it again. No, that’s wrong. Watch. Like this. Lucy! I want you to get this so we can focus on speed tomorrow. Do it over, Lucy. Right now.”
If Michael Phelps himself was the one standing there and giving instructions, I might’ve been inclined to listen. But this mom was overweight, wearing shorts and a t-shirt (instead of a swimsuit), and looked like she’d never swum a day in her life. Everything she was “demonstrating” was not exactly the best form I have ever seen.“Lucy, in the relay, who is going to be after you? Isabel? Okay. And who is right before you? Madeline? Hmm. Well. All right, I guess we are stuck with that line-up. What I want you to do now is streamline. Do this. Ready, go! That was better, a little better. Try it again. Remember how I showed you this morning? Do that.”
This went on for over an hour. Over an hour!When Tiger Swim Mom was at the edge of the pool for the 837th time, I was ready to push her in. I had fantasies about walking behind her on my way to the diving board and faking some sort of “accidental” trip where I would bump into her and she would tumble into the deep end. I would feign clumsiness (very believable if you’ve ever met me), apologize profusely, then keep walking.
I am all for encouraging kids. Really, I am. My sons play soccer, and I have morphed into one of those moms who sits on the sideline cheering, “Take the ball, take the ball, it’s yours!” How is that any different? Well, during soccer season, my sons practice once/ week. Unless it rains, and then they don’t practice at all. Soccer has not inhabited our lives; soccer does not walk into our living room, sit on our sofa, pour itself a glass of wine, and demand the Sports Page. Soccer knows when to go home.I want my children to succeed, but not to the point where it is their obsession. Maybe I should rephrase that: Not to the point where my obsession becomes their obsession.
All these thoughts were crashing around in my brain while I sat next to the pool.
Tall shouted out,
“Mom, look at me! Watch me do a handstand!”And I didn’t even make him do it over.
I gave him a thumbs-up.
I gave him a thumbs-up.