Back in the day if you wanted your child to be a star chances are you had to pull a Jed Clampett and tell yourself “Californy is the place you ought to be.” (Sorry for that Beverly Hillbillies throwback.) Now, there’s another way to reach the masses with your kid’s talent without ever having to leave home – social media.

There are legions of parents out there who are ambitiously dedicated to making their children “instafamous.” This term is derived from the Instagram app and to be instafamous is to have hordes of followers on social media.

Usually an aspiring instafamous kid has a social media account “managed by their mother” and features lots, I mean like, thousands of photos of the child. When you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook you know when you see pictures of a kid that feature an otherworldly, soft focus glow from the use of the Mayfair filter (because studies show that photos using the Mayfair filter get the most likes) and seem most certainly photoshopped that this child is probably on the instafamous track.

(I’m now going on the record as saying that if you’re parent that believes the natural beauty of your child isn’t good enough so therefore you feel compelled to photoshop, blur and enhance the image of your four-year-old you have problems and need to immediately seek professional help.)

I admit to being bewildered by parents who shamelessly court followers for their children on social media. Is there an upside? I mean how is your darling cherub ever going to usurp a celebrity’s kids in likes and follows? And what’s the end game besides people thinking you’re crazy?

Yes, crazy because everyone knows that for the most part getting your kid instafamous is more about you and your ego issues than your eight-year-old giving a flip about whether or not the last photo you posted exceeded 1K in likes.

My daughter is a competitive dancer (think athlete + artist) and that world seems to breed mothers who are intent on gaining instafamous status for their child. For one thing it’s easy – you’ve got loads of impressive dance pics of your kid and there’s enough going on in the dance world from Dance Moms to So You Think You Can Dance Kids to buoy a parent’s hope that their child could be the next big thing. There’s also the lure of getting a dance apparel contract for your child, which seems to be predicted on social media followers and is step one in the “I Want My Kid To Be A Star” handbook.

What scares and confounds me is that these parents seem to be oblivious or choose to ignore the frightening fact that a lot of social media love comes from creeps. One dance studio in Kansas had a huge security concern after some zealous wanna be instafamous moms hustled their kids so much that “strange men” starting lurking outside the dance studio. And a young dancer “who made it” has mega fans like a prison inmate who has the child’s likeness tattooed on his face.

We live in a hyper vigilant society where we won’t let our kids play outside in their own yard or ride their bikes around the cul-de-sac without an adult present. People freak out and call the police when they see a child walking home from school alone. So, I’m perplexed how there can there be such a huge disconnect for some parents who wouldn’t let their kid run down the street to the neighbors but are actively wooing and inviting the worst of humanity into their child’s life via social media.

Is another Instagram follower worth it? You can’t Mayfair filter or photoshop the ugly out of that question.

Fan Club

Before I became a parent I imaScreen Shot 2016-04-15 at 9.44.59 AMgined 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.


One Hour at a Dance Competition

10444545_783932541627986_5122564243382035730_nMy daughter is a competitive dancer. She loves it. I love that she loves it. I know there are crazies in every sport, but I can only write about the crazies I know. I’m in no way bashing dance competitions or saying every grown woman at a dance competition is worthy of a starring role in the Dance Moms TV show. So please no bedazzled hate mail.

I’m about to enter into the fourth and final day of a dance competition. I fear I maybe suffering from some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All I can hear is a continuous loop of loud music where the lyrics seem to be jumbled and the bass is turned up way too high. On top of that my vision is blurred like I’ve been repeatedly poked in the eye with a tube of glitter glue and my hands they’re actually achy from clapping. I’ve seen more than 500 and counting dance numbers this weekend and it’s just too much for my middle-aged metacarpal and phalanges.

The only thing keeping me going besides, of course, seeing the joy in my daughter as she dances and appreciating the sheer athleticism and the beauty of the art form is the behavior of some of the other parents. It’s outrageous and highly entertaining in a slow down to see a car wreck kind of way.

Let me make it very clear I am NOT talking about the parents at my daughter’s dance studio because we are a splendid group of proper, superbly mannered adults that are blessed with our darling children having amazing, talented and caring instructors. (If anyone from the studio is reading this I hope my overt sucking up has now earned my kid some time in the front row, preferably center stage.) Now that that’s out of the way let’s all get our focus back on the dance crazies. I swear some of the people here are on a day pass from a long-term care mental health facility.

I can prove my assertion by solely focusing on one hour at today’s dance competition. Here’s what went down from noon to one. At high noon I had gone out to my car to get a Diet Coke from my cooler because I don’t know what’s up with these dance competitions, but at every single one they only sell freaking Diet Pepsi. WTH? This mandates that I have to break out my own private supply of Diet Coke. So, there I was walking back inside the venue clutching my iced beverage when I notice two policeman talking to one very upset Triple Platinum Diamond Emerald Elite dance mom.

Now, those of you that are not of the competitive dance world won’t know what this means so let me explain. This woman signaled her pecking order in the dance world by her appearance. First was her hair. I’m going to be kind and say that she obviously had a bad “do it yourself” experience (and who hasn’t) with home highlighting and attempted to cover the unflattering bleach demarcation lines by back combing it into some sort of hair helmet meets mullet. Her makeup was applied as if, she, herself, was ready to go on stage and she wore a hot mess of a blinged out T-shirt with her child’s dance studio’s name. Add in some jeans with, I’m guessing, her initials, in rhinestones on the back pockets and stilettos and you have a mom whose sense of good taste and fashion has been compromised by years of over exposure to industrial strength hair spray.

In the two short years my daughter has been dancing I’ve noticed there are 4 things that signal aggressive dance mom – bad hair, (It’s like they’ve never used a deep conditioner) sparkle enhanced clothing, a love of your own cleavage and the lack of a sensible shoe at an event where you stand for hours.

This woman had all four thus marking her as an uber serious dance mom. The fact that she had tears in her eyes and was very animatedly telling a story to police officers had me slowing way down to do a little eavesdropping. Apparently, there had been a dance mom throw down that involved shoving, threats and I was so hoping that hair pulling was involved that I asked very excitedly, “Was hair pulled? Was there just shoving or did someone get smacked? And if so was is open palm or one of those back of your hand slaps?”

I was totally sure the mom was about to answer, but one of the cops told me I needed to “step back” so I went inside and tried to ferret out what went down by mingling with the other moms at the studio listed on the crying mom’s shirt. Did I know any of these mothers? Heck no, but that wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I went straight to their dressing room and pretended I was looking for my daughter’s “lost” phone. This is where I learned that one mom who used to dance at their studio but left because she felt her daughter wasn’t getting enough attention for another studio (side bar: In the dance world this is called studio hopping. It’s when a mother constantly changes where her daughter dances in a never-ending quest to find the one place where f-i-n-a-l-l-y her child will get what she deserves  – eternal adulation) was at this competition and according to these moms words were exchanged about how one mom’s daughter wasn’t as good as the other mom’s daughter and before you could say jazz hands someone started shoving someone else. I’m sure the cops were called as back up for the lawsuit you just know one mom is going to file against the other mom.

Now, you would think this would be enough crazy in one hour, but no, there’s more. After all it’s only 12:27. I proceed to go into the stage venue where the performances are taking place but I can’t find anywhere to sit down. This is strange because there are many empty seats. The problem is the empty seats are covered with blankets. The blankets represent seats being “saved.”

I have no problem with people “saving” a couple of seats, but 10 to 15 seats is a little greedy especially when these “saved” seats seem to stay empty most of the day. I ask a woman with almost 20 seats blanketed if I may sit down to see one two-minute dance number. She says, “No!” and is visibly peeved that I have dared to even bother her with such a silly question. So, for research purposes only, I assure you, I ask her, “So, what will you do to me if I sit down? Are the seats rigged with C-4? I’ve noticed most, if not all of the seats you’ve been hoarding, have been empty all morning. Are you saving them for judgement day or something?”

She gives me an evil sort of “I dare you stare” back so I have no choice but to plop my ample fanny in the seat, but not just one seat, mind you, I do the butt seat straddle so I’m taking up two seats. She then grabs the end of one of the blankets and proceeds to swat me.

I’m holding in my laughter so hard I’m afraid my tenuous bladder control might fail me, but I remain stalwart in my mission and butt grip those two seats through one dance number as this deranged woman continues to swat me with the fringed end of a blanket. After the dance number is over I give Swatty a smile, stand up and thank her for her gracious hospitality.

All my laughing has necessitated a trip to the ladies room. I’m in the back stall taking care of business when I hear a woman on her cell phone in the stall next to me crying. Now usually if I heard someone sobbing in a bathroom stall I might be concerned but not at a dance competition. I knew why this woman was crying. It was because her child must have suffered some egregious injustice at the hand of the judges panel.

There are three areas of concern for any deranged dance mom.

1) Is your child getting the best choreography or is all the good choreography saved for some other kid who you just know is not as gifted as your child? I mean seriously have you seen the other kid’s feet. They’re like wooden blocks. She would have to use a belt sander to get those things to point.

2) Is your child getting enough of the dance teacher’s attention? In deranged dance mom speak that loosely translates to – Is my child being worshipped as befitting her someday grand and glorious contribution to the dance world?

3) Why isn’t my kid always dancing in the front row? The deranged dance mom will take out her phone and time how many seconds her kid has dancing front and center in all her competition numbers. She will then graph her child’s time spend in the front in correlation to the amount of time other dancers from the studio spend in the front row. From this she’ll surmise that her kid is being ripped off. It’s a lose-lose for the studio owners and dance teachers. If they don’t put the kid in the front row they’re playing favorites. If they do put the child in the front and she doesn’t perform up to expectations the mom will blame the studio for putting too much stress on her kid. It goes something like this, “How could you expect her to perform well? You put her under so much pressure! You forget she’s just a child.”

As I’m washing my hands the crying mom comes out of her stall. I ask her if everything is all right. She responds with, “I just so tired of my daughter not getting treated right. This whole dance thing is so unfair. I swear I think her teachers are jealous of her, because she has more talent than they ever did.”

She then asks me where my daughter dances and I make up a studio. In no way do I want this crazy in my neck of the woods. (I do not, like most mothers, wear the studio T-shirt of where my daughter dances. I think the studio is very, very, grateful and it helps me in my information quest to remain on the down low.) I do feel a little bit sorry for her so I tell her a “feel good” fib and say, “Dry those eyes sister. I heard a Dance Mom’s talent scout is here. You should go out there and try to find her.”

I barely had a chance to finish my sentence before she was hauling out the bathroom door. I then look at my phone it’s almost 1:00. Wow, I think to myself that’s a lot of crazy in 60 minutes, even for me.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂