Momhood

Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Playing to Win While We Wear Out

I've been a parent for almost 19 years. During that time, I've seen a lot of parents come and go in all different shapes, sizes and personalities. Two of my favorite "flavors" of parents are The Sports Parents and the Arts Parents. (Bear with me. I do realize this is a massive generalization that is only rooted in my own personal reality.)

Sports parents spend their days, nights and weekends carting their kids around to practices, tryouts, games, tournaments and banquets. They have a haggard look about them that implies that they've been driving the minivan too long and haven't had a sit-down dinner with their family in weeks. They work so hard to allow their kids to participate in sports that they've sacrificed their own identity and sense of self. Sitting on sidelines or in stands has become their social life. They're great at small talk because a 60-minute game rarely allows for anything more in-depth than that. Their cars are full of empty juice boxes, blankets, fold-up chairs, shin guards, and smelly shoes. They know the town like the back of their hand because of their intimate knowledge of every gym and playing field within 90 miles. Their cell phones ring incessantly and include various orthopedic specialists on speed dial. The most difficult word for them to utter is "no." They've broadened their child's world through athletics which makes it so hard for them not to embrace the next challenge, the next level, the next team and the next school, even if it's at the expense of a reasonable life. They're generally very fit which is why they encouraged their child to pursue sports in the first place. Some of them are former athletes that look to their children to fulfill their unrealized dreams. Sometimes they forget that it's their kids and not them playing. They tend to refer to their child's team as "we" and look for reasons for losses with the precision of a college scout.

The Arts parents are usually no less worn-out than the Sports parents. Their days, nights and weekends are spent hauling their child and his/her instrument, equipment or costume from music studios to teachers' homes to rehearsal halls to music stores. Their houses are filled with the sounds of scales, chords, monologues, riffs and fills at ear-splitting levels. They're totally accustomed to sitting in their car outside a local theater at 10:00 at night waiting for the end of dress rehearsal - even on a school night. Their cars are filled with instrument cases, dance shoes, water bottles, rosin, strings, picks, reeds and sheet music. Their car stereos are tuned to talk radio since the idea of hearing one...more...song is almost unbearable. For many, music, dance or theatre isn't a diversion, it's a passion that can never be perfected. When they do get to interact with other parents, it's generally to trade stories of carpal tunnel, swollen vocal chords, shin splints and the phone number of the best teacher and Ear/Nose/Throat MD in town. They're generally well-read since their child's schedule allows far fewer opportunities for socializing and more opportunities to sit and read while waiting. They tend to be quirky since the life of an arts parent and an artist can be lonely. Sure there are dance teams, choirs, orchestras and ensembles, but practice and lessons are often solo efforts that require the parents to be the audience. They listen and watch critically for missed notes or botched steps and can spot the faulty performer from a mile away. They've stopped performing years ago, knowing that they can't enjoy what isn't perfect. Perfection will be the job of their child.

Occasionally, Sports Parents and Arts Parents cross over. Their athletic kids play an instrument or their prodigy is on the volleyball team. Still, they segregate at group events and stick to their own kind and silently say thanks that their kid doesn't do this all the time. They look at each other's world with amazement and incredulity at the thought of listening to a song played or danced to over and over again or sitting outside at 8:00 am on a Saturday watching a soccer game. Neither wishes to trade places.

Still, Sports Parents and Arts Parents share the ever-important job of head cheerleader and fan club president. They wipe away tears of frustration, embarrassment and disappointment. They encourage and support and sometimes have to admonish their children for blaming referees, conductors, teammates, instruments, equipment or acoustics. They teach them to take responsibility for the mistakes but to always share in the accomplishments. They willingly reserve their weekends to drive their children hundreds of miles to compete and perform. And when it's all over, when the kids graduate college and start their own lives, these very different parents will share something they don't like to think about: the empty schedules, the quiet houses and the long weekends.

Until their grandkids start playing and performing, that is.

17 Comments:

At 9:41 AM , Blogger Marisa said...

Wow I'm honored to leave the first comment.

Gotta love sweeping generalizations b/c, to quote a friend, "it's funny b/c it's true!" I'm not a parent, but I think my own parents were a cross-breed, mostly sports.

 
At 9:42 AM , Blogger Marisa said...

OOPS! and Michele sent me.

 
At 11:24 AM , Blogger IndyPindy said...

Hi, Michele sent me! Wow, after reading this, my mom says she is double sure that she wants furry children instead of human children!

 
At 12:05 PM , Blogger David said...

im sure that is a great post - looks good I will have to come back and read it later - Michele sent me

 
At 12:47 PM , Blogger Melissa said...

Hello, Michele sent me.

I grew up in southern Wisconsin and am always happy to stumble accross someone living in America's Dairyland.

 
At 12:50 PM , Anonymous Raindrop fairy said...

Hello, Michele sent me.

What type are you? It's interessting to read. I think I'll end up as a cat-lady. :-)

 
At 1:03 PM , Blogger Aginoth said...

Hi Karen Michelle Sent me :o)

I think Me and Mrs.A just count as Worn Out Parents

 
At 1:08 PM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

you nailed it. The sports parent is my dad and the art parent is my mom. My sister is the drum major at her school and has been a musician since she was about 9. My brother plays soccer and baseball. Both seem to be living vicariously through the kids. Now my brother is invloved in the band, so it is kind of a crossover. I am terrified to know what will become of my mom when both kids are graduated.

 
At 1:14 PM , Anonymous Leanne said...

You hit the nail on the head, that's for sure! I'm on the verge of being an "Arts Parent", but mine includes arts and crafts very literally. We don't really socialize, and I am totally quirky! We have a lot of music around us (and a piano), but I teach them myself - so there's no running to classes or anything like that. We're hombodies for sure!

Excellent reading, you totally kept my attention!

Michele sent me, and I'm so glad!!

 
At 4:15 PM , Blogger Alisha said...

What a beautifully written post!

Here from Michele's...have a great weekend!

 
At 4:17 PM , Blogger coolbeans said...

Hello, Michele sent me.

I could go on and on, but you said it all.

 
At 5:35 PM , Blogger Jewaira said...

That is what parents do - for the love of their children. And really they are only dependent on us for a short time anyway.

Here from Michele's :)

 
At 6:14 PM , Blogger David said...

I came back to finish reading patience is a virtue, dressing well is an art.

 
At 8:16 PM , Blogger PresentStorm said...

Michele says hey :)

Have a great weekend !!!

 
At 8:31 PM , Blogger Barbara said...

Wow, sounds like you've been both types of parent. I feel like I know what both lifes are like, Thanks for the illuminating post.

 
At 7:05 AM , Blogger Cheryl said...

Insanity is hereditary - you get it from your kids. (Anon)

Nice blog - Michelle sent me! :-)

 
At 7:15 AM , Blogger mw said...

That is an incredible analysis, and it clarifies an aspect of my life. My ex is a crossover and I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the role, which I utterly detest...

What a great post - thanks!

Oh yeah, Michele sent me...

 

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