Intense Parents of the World, Unite!
We try not to shout from the sidelines, but sometimes we do. Why? Our standards are high and our expectations are even higher. Sometimes that means our kids resent us, and other times it leaves us feeling lonely. But the fact is I just don’t know any other way to parent.
When my kids make a scene in public, which is often, Laurie and I battle embarrassment and then… loneliness. We’re the only parents going through this, we think. No one gets us. These other parents staring at us are judging us, along with their well-behaved kids.
I reconsidered this the other day when, at Isaac’s rugby game, I witnessed a funny interaction. At halftime, the players were coming off the field and I saw one of Isaac’s teammates cover one nostril with a finger and blow, and then do the other nostril. His mother, who had been mid-sentence talking to another mother, saw her son blow his nose into the air and lost her mind.
“What is he…” she shouted from the sideline to no one in particular. “He knows he’s not supposed to…Adam! Adam! Stop it!”
“I have to,” he shouted. “I can’t breathe!”
I hardly knew the kid, but I could tell he wasn’t back talking. Nevertheless, she continued to go off. I hadn’t noticed the mom prior to this incident, but now I couldn’t help but listen to every word she said. Once the second half started, she constantly shouted directions. “Get low!” and “Go down!” Then she paced the sidelines and announced to all the other parents, “He’s playing rugby like a football player. He knows better.”
To me, this was in good fun. Or at least in the spirit of competition. We were watching a vicious, full-contact sport. So I don’t think anyone was thinking, “Oh I hope my baby doesn’t get hurt.” Yet I wondered if the other parents were as amused by her behavior as I was.
Watching this mom get so visibly frustrated was incredibly refreshing. Laurie and I proudly consider ourselves helicopter parents. We rarely let rude or bad behavior go. Which makes it especially embarrassing and isolating when our kids, who we know are capable of good behavior, misbehave.
The game ended and we won, despite some pretty sloppy defense. Isaac came to the sideline and gave me a high five. “How do you think I did?” he asked. He was panting, and covered head to toe in mud.
“You put some points on the board, so you should be happy about that. But your tackling wasn’t great.” I was genuinely pleased with his offense, so my tone of voice was mild, especially for me. “I mean, the whole team’s tackling was lousy. You guys almost blew a substantial lead, but your offense kept you in the game.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said.
He took a thermos of water, sprayed a giant mouthful, and then spit it out.
“Cut that out,” I said.
“Oops,” he said. “Sorry about that.”
“I told you not to do that.”
I thought I’d said this soft enough so only Isaac heard, but then a voice from behind me said, “That’s a good boy you have there.” I looked over and saw it was the intense mom. “Stay on him, Dad. You gotta make sure these boys grow up with manners.”
“Ha ha!” I said. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“And I heard what you said about the defense,” she said. “They gotta get that squared away before next week’s game.”
“Agreed,” I said. “Good thing they have a couple of practices between now and then.”
We continued to chit chat for a few minutes. Then headed home.
During the drive and for the rest of the afternoon, I thought about this exchange. It felt good to connect with another parent, especially one so dedicated to her child’s behavior. But I also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that she felt perfectly OK jumping in with her two cents. From one intense parent to another: Solidarity, Sister!