by Jennifer Sey
Reading the recently released Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids, by Mark Hyman, I felt like I was reading the “B” side to my own memoir, Chalked Up. It was the he said to my she said soliloquy on the pressures inside elite level childhood athletics. While it offered little new insight into why my mom did the things she did back then (she became obsessed with my gymnastics which led us down a rocky road), the book reminded me that living my life for me, rather than through my children, is probably a good thing. Sounds obvious, I know, but a girl needs a reminder every now and again.
I often feel guilty about the fact that I actually have my own aspirations despite my choice to be a mom. I’m not around all that much, at least not as compared to my mother’s consistent presence during my youth. I work full time; I don’t cart my kids to and from school everyday; I certainly don’t sit through 6 hour sports practices watching their every move. I wouldn’t dream of splitting my family apart, moving to some out of the way town because there just so happens to be a world class training facility there (my mom and I moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania away from my dad and our home in New Jersey so that I could practice with the best). As an adult, I’m awed by the sacrifices my mother made for me. But I have no interest in going down that path. Hence, the guilt. It’s screwy I know. My mom’s compulsive commitment went awry and yet the parenting standard I fall back on is that. And since I don’t measure up, I succumb to self-condemnation from time to time.
In my head, I recognize that I do a lot for my kids. I work hard to support the family. We have dinner together every night. We read Lemony Snicket. We spend weekends going to the park, throwing a baseball or seeing whatever God awful cartoon movie they fancy. And sometimes we just hang around. We talk and I give them endless hugs and I love you’s. But I do my own thing. I work long days when I need to. I write when there is a quiet moment, often telling them to go entertain themselves – “I’m not a human television set” is a popular refrain I hear myself spewing. Life things outside of my boys matter to me. And this causes involuntary angst. What the head knows (“I’m a good mom!”), the heart doesn’t always believe.