Before I became a parent I imagined myself being rather spectacular at it. I would be like my own mother, but even better with overtures of my grandma who never meet a toy or chocolate éclair she didn’t want to send my way. Then I had children and was shocked to discover that nothing unearths or highlights your flaws more than the parenting journey.
What I think catches a lot of moms by an even bigger surprise than the fact that we can consistently be outsmarted by a toddler is as our children get older and more involved in activities we assume a moniker based on their extracurricular desires.
We’re soccer, basketball, volleyball, swim, choir, (insert activity of your choice) moms. It doesn’t matter if you singlehandedly just orchestrated a dramatic hostage rescue in the Middle East if you kid plays Little League and you’re signed up to bring snacks for Saturday’s game you’re a baseball mom.
As in any endeavor there’s a pecking order, if you will, of participation and devotion. Some parents are zealots and have totally given up their life to the cause and by that I mean their child’s current passion. Back in the day I was a History Fair Mom and it was brutal.
I was total caught off guard about the level of intrigue and backstabbing. (In homage to history I would compare it to King Henry the VIII’s court during the Anne Boleyn beheading.) I just thought my main job was driving my son to the competitions, making sure his darling bow tie was straight and keeping him well hydrated for an optimum presentation performance. This in a word was wrong.
Once my son made it to the national competition (A surprise to both of us and my wallet because this meant we had to go to D.C.) I was scared. Parents were checking other child competitors’ historical sources and claiming they were “vague, flawed and unsubstantial.” And then, I swear on the picture of George Washington in the National Portrait gallery on the sincerity of this statement, there was the ceremonial exchanging of “curriculum vitae.”
One kid’s resume was three pages long. First, what 12-year-old has a “vitae”? And how does one after only residing on planet earth for a mere dozen years garner enough career experience to fill three 8 ½ X 11’s in what I’m guessing was a tiny 8 point Times Roman font? (I just updated my resume and I had to use a Cambria 12 point just to fill one page.)
Thankfully, my son turned out to not be a fierce competitor. We gave each other our signature family eye roll which means initiate the escape by any means necessary protocol and ran like the wind to our D.C. safe space – The Air and Space Museum.
Another thing about being an extracurricular parent that came as a revelation to me is how woefully unprepared I was for the self-doubt and, sometimes, self-esteem kick in the pants that can await you. There you are thinking you’ve got it all together. You’ve, sort of, figured out life. You’re at the top of your parenting game and then, in my case, a feather, yes a feather, can take you down.
I’m a dance mom. Your thoughts about what exactly a dance mom is might be skewed from watching a popular reality TV show with that name. Let me give you a quick education into what a dance mom really is – totally awesomeness. You know, except for me.
Oh, for a while there I thought I had the whole dance mom thing under control until my daughter got on a new team. This is where I discovered that a society of dance moms exist that are so accomplished I’m certain they posses Wonder Woman like skills and perhaps, when their children aren’t dancing, reside on their own secret island and take turns saving the universe.
My first foray into this potentially superhero environment was back in the fall. I noticed that the dance studio, approximately the size of a Costco, had an area lined with table after table. Hmm, I thought do they run a restaurant here after hours? Then in January I was hit with the truth.
One day I walked in and the entire studio resembled Santa’s workshop – the Dance Mom edition. Every square inch of non-dancing space was filled with parents creating costume masterpieces. All those tables were filled with sewing machines and moms (and even a dad) tufting tiny ruffles for tutu tops, bending jeweled brocade to beautify chiffon skirts and there were shiny crystal stones as far as the eye could see casting a glitter glow that took my breath away. I stopped breathing all together when I saw that there was even a shoe design area where parents were using their painting skills to take a tap shoe from ho-hum to Manolo Blahnik worthy.
I began inwardly freaking out and my heart might as well have been one of those painted tap shoe it was beating so fast. I’m so sewing and arts and crafts challenged that by the time my kids hit third grade they actually forbid me from helping them with any school project. I believe the exact quote was, “No mom you’ll just mess it up.” So how was I ever going to be able to live up to these standards spread out on table after table before me? I panicked and decided there was no other course of action but to publicly admit that I was unworthy and beg for help.
It was like a legion of fairy godmothers descended on me and took me under their gossamer wings embellished with tiny crystals (because duh dance moms of this stature wouldn’t just have unadorned wings). It was all going to be okay. These women would see to it that my daughter’s costumes would be amazing. The only thing I had to do was make two fans out of feathers. No problem, I thought. The single skill required was the ability to wield a glue gun. I so had this.
I happily turned my kitchen counter into a crafting zone. My glue gun was fired up and raring to go and I had thirty-two, 14 inch teal blue and white ostrich feathers spread out in a fan formation. All I needed to do was adhere the feathers to multiple felt bases. Easy peasy right?
Umm no, because as I was pressing a very temperamental ostrich feather to the felt, which was oozing with hot glue, my hand got stuck and when I attempted to pull my hand from the felt base I took all the feathers with me. I was literally Edward Feather Hands.
Right about this time, probably from hearing my cursing interspersed with sobbing, my daughter walked in. She , took the glue gun from my hand, and then started, very roughly, I might add, ripping feathers off my skin.
I looked at her and said, “You’re going to make the fans aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I am. Admit it Mom this just isn’t your thing.”
“But I want to be good at it.” I wailed with feathers remnants still stuck to my hand, which made wiping my watery eyes, a challenge. “I want to contribute.”
“Then go write about it,” she said with more than a wee bit of sarcasm. “That’s something you can, kind of, actually do.”
So I did. Behold, the tale of failed dance mom in all her partially feathered glory.