I feel like someone wrote a script for this parenting part of our lives, which includes specific lines (with specific inflection!) for how we interact with teachers, coaches and each other. Our dialogue is so full of platitudes, recycled humor and, well, nothing of substance, that sometimes I get lost mid-conversation because I can’t remember what part of it was important. You know what I mean.
Here are some well-used examples from the suburban mommy’s script:
TO ANOTHER PARENT ON YOUR CHILD’S TEAM: “[Insert kid’s name here] played great today! Is he trying out for [insert sport here] next year?”
TO THE MOM OF THE BIRTHDAY GIRL (TURNING DOWN INVITE): “Thanks for the invite. Unfortunately [insert kid’s name here] has [insert activity here] so she can’t make it to [insert birthday kid’s name here]’s party. She’s soooooo disappointed!”
TO THE MOM OF THE BIRTHDAY GIRL (ACCEPTING INVITE): “Thanks for the invite! My daughter would LOVE to come! So, what is [insert birthday kid’s name here] into these days? What would she like for her birthday?”
RESPONSE FROM THE BIRTHDAY GIRL’S MOM: “Oh, she’d love anything. But you can get her a Target gift card. She would just love that!”
TO A PARENT OF A CHILD IN YOUR CHILD’S CLASS: “So what do you think of Mrs. [insert teacher’s name here]?” She seems too [insert adjective here, such as strict/lenient/nice/mean/tough/easy]. I’m concerned that [insert kid’s name here] isn’t [insert verb here, such as learning/progressing].”
And on and on it goes. We are little mommy robots, spewing out the necessary questions/responses when life’s normal events require background conversation. I’m not saying that simple questions don’t require simple answers, but just once wouldn’t you like to throw out a curve ball? Shoot from the hip and say the first thing that comes to mind (because all of us at one point or another, have had enough of the sameness)? Like this:
TO ANOTHER PARENT ON YOUR CHILD’S TEAM: “Your kid is good but he’s a total ball hog and doesn’t know how to deal with losing. Perhaps you shouldn’t stand on the sidelines and yell at him to ‘GO TO GOAL’ until your face turns red and spittle sprays out the side of your mouth. Especially when we’re up by 12. And perhaps you shouldn’t cheer just for your kid when there are ten other kids out there playing just as hard for the team who wouldn’t mind some encouragement. And put away the college brochures because your kid is 11 years old and probably hates that you make him play with such intensity. He’ll most likely be burned out when he graduates – but the good news is that you don’t have to apply to JuCo.”
TO THE MOM OF THE BIRTHDAY GIRL (TURNING DOWN INVITE): “Thanks for the invite! [Insert your kid’s name here] can’t go, because if I have to attend another Pump-It-Up party I’m going to start drinking again.”
TO THE MOM OF THE BIRTHDAY GIRL (ACCEPTING THE INVITE:): “Thanks for the invite! I refuse to ask what your kid is ‘into’ these days, because we have a drawer full of unopened re-gifts and I’m going to make my kid dip into that. Your kid will open the gift (one of 20 she’ll receive) and never use it anyway, so what’s the difference? You’ll probably find it in her room six months later and re-gift it yourself, which is fine. Also? I’m dropping her off curbside. I refuse to take time to get dressed up (um, take off my sweatpants and slippers), walk in and engage in 15 minutes of nonsense conversation with all of the other uncomfortable moms and dads that just want to get out of there and enjoy three hours kid free. And I promise I will not be that mom who stays for the entire party to keep an eye on their kid (thwapp thwapp…do I hear helicopter rotors?). Just return her looking about the same as she did when I dropped her off and we’re good.”
TO THE MOM THAT ASKS WHAT YOUR CHILD IS INTO: “Honestly? I wake up in a pool of nervous sweat at least once a week with a nagging sense that my kid is becoming a product of her environment. The fact that I’m having a party for her at all represents that I’ve already caved to societal norms. I mean, I gave birth to her. She just sat there and got swaddled. Shouldn’t the party be for me? As far as presents go, just get her whatever your kid would like. I’m spiraling in a self-hate pattern right now and can’t really give you a cogent answer.”
TO A PARENT OF A CHILD IN YOUR CHILD’S CLASS: “The teacher is great, actually. The problem is your kid and it’s always been your kid. Every year you complain about the teacher when in fact your kid is overindulged, disrespectful and your attitude is officious and defensive when anyone tries to explain this to you. So, unfortunately for my kid and every other kid in this class, we all get to deal with it until you wake up and get over yourself.”
Ahhh, now isn’t that better? I wish that we could all strive for one ‘real’ conversation of substance per week. From there we could graduate to two or three. Yes, sometimes feelings might get hurt and parents might shun you socially for a while, but with any great and effective movement there has to be a catalyst planting the seeds of change.
I know that I’m surrounded by interesting moms who have the depth of character and life experience to proudly be their true selves. We can tear up the script and talk like normal people…we can! You have so much to say and we have so much to talk about! I for one would love the honesty and will like you even more for coming unglued once in a while. At least then I’ll know it’s really you, and not the actor portraying you.