Mothering Isn't a Sport.
by Vicki Larson
The joke around my house has always been that it’s a good thing my sister and I weren’t boys or we’d be total geeks.
Our parents didn’t “do” sports.
They didn’t watch them, read about them or participate in them or encourage us to. The last time my dad had played baseball was as a kid, barefoot on the streets of the Bronx with a broomstick handle as a bat and whatever he and the neighborhood kids could scrounge up to pass for a ball.
There wasn’t much in the way of sports at the public schools I attended, either — way before Title IX came into being. P.E. was nothing more than volleyball and square dancing in ridiculous blue cotton onesies. Not to diminish volleyball and square dancing, but to paraphrase former vice president candidate Sen. Lloyd Bensten, I know sports and they’re not sports.
Thus, I am not very competitive. True, I had a certain reputation at Whitestone Park where I spent hours smacking a hardball against the “handball court” — actually a support wall for the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge — and tossing a Frisbee until I could get it to sail across most of the park’s length. Few wanted to take me on when it came to handball and Frisbee.
But that was about it.
So it was a bit of shock for me to be thrust into a competitive world when I became a mom. Oh, not the Little League, soccer and basketball games that my two boys participated in while I watched, happily, on the sidelines and bleachers. I mean other mothers.
Somehow, mommying became a competitive sport.
It didn’t happen immediately. In my new moms playgroup, we were pretty much united in our inexperience and sleep-deprivation. The mystifying things our babies did brought us together, not apart.
Then one day, when their kids’ personalities and talents started becoming apparent, moms took control — and credit — and began spinning their kids’ accomplishments as if they were all White House spokeswomen.
I first noticed it the year my firstborn somehow got “The” elementary school teacher. The mothers whose kids also got “in” walked around as if their entire family just been asked to join the Bohemian Grove, while the mothers whose kids were denied access into the coveted classroom were jealous or bemused, or both.
The moms started jockeying for position — who’d bring her the morning coffee, who’d bring her favorite sweet, who’d have her over for dinner, who’d organize her surprise birthday party, who’d hand-make the costumes and props for the play — all in an effort to assure their child title of teacher’s pet.
Each mom raised the bar just a little higher.
“What the heck’s going on in that classroom?” my friends whose kids were in the other classes asked me as they observed from the playground sidelines some of the holier-than-thou behavior of the kids and moms. I didn’t know quite how to answer; it was surreal.