Today, I want to share something that has been bugging me for the longest time. I have written and rewritten this post about a gazillion times, and hitting publish is kind of hard. I’m not sure what the backlash will be, but I feel like I need to say something.
It seems like I’ve been asked the question, “What do your kids do?” eight. billion. times. It happens every time I meet someone new and they find out I have children, it happens every time I bump in to someone I haven’t seen for a few years, and it happens every time I have to fill out some sort of form about one of my kiddos.
Bring on the pressure. How do I answer? Will I be judged…more importantly, will my children be judged?
What’s the right answer?
I feel like my answer should be either, “Kate is fluent in Spanish and French, she is studying to be a concert pianist, she already has 4 scholarship offers to play college golf, she’s been published in 5 magazines and is a finalist in So You Think You Can Dance.” or “Cameron is being scouted by several major league baseball teams, plays chess with the elderly in his free time, can run 20 miles in 3 minutes, and can’t decide whether to go to Stanford or Brown when he graduates magna cum laude a year early next spring.”
Would that be a good answer? Would other mothers bat their eyes with envy? Probably not. It probably still wouldn’t be as much as their children are doing, or maybe they’d just think I was full of it…which I would be if I actually said either of those things.
Here’s the thing. My kids don’t really care for competitive sports. They both love playing golf and basketball. Cam enjoys hanging with his friends, laughing with his girlfriend, playing golf with his dad and friends, pickup basketball games and impromptu games of football with his friends. He is actually good at all of these things, but prefers them as hobbies. Kate loves to dance, sing, read, play golf, swim, actually does speak Spanish and loves to shoot hoops. Again…non competitively.
So, I tried this one day when an old friend asked me what Cam does. I said, “Right now he is playing golf. He absolutely loves golf!” Her reply was, “Oh! That’s wonderful! So does he play for his school or does he do the Junior PGA?” I think I may have mumbled something like, “ermmm….no, I meant he is playing golf right now, with his friend, Westin.” She looked at me with sad eyes, and I felt ashamed for a moment. I felt like I had somehow failed as a mother. Like just playing golf for fun wasn’t good enough. I wanted to scream back at her, “He has a 3.7 grade point average and he is happy…what the crap is your deal?”
Once I got home and had time to properly stew about it, I was pissed. Beyond steaming mad. Why in the hell is it so important to everyone else what my kids do? Isn’t it kind of a loaded question? What ever happened to, “How are your kiddos?” Just that?
And…what the hell with the mom guilt? Why do we allow ourselves and our children to be judged on the amount of activities they are involved in?
If you would have asked my mom, “So, what does your kid do?” back when I was school aged, her answer would have been something along the lines of, “Jessica is currently driving me batshit crazy. She keeps taking my glass bowls and bringing them back full of crawdads to raise. She wants to be a botanist, so she dug up every weed in our yard and tried turning our back room into a greenhouse, and she just ripped up four of my Country Living Magazines and wallpapered one of her walls. Oh, and she likes to ride her bike and singing songs from Annie while she sits on our washing machine.” Man…was I a total loser or what? By today’s standards, definitely. But you know what, I know better. I was a happy, healthy, jubilant kiddo. My friends and I used our imaginations. We built forts from old bed sheets and sticks that we found in our yards or the woods. There were no pre-fabricated tents that our moms ordered and put together for us. We caught crawdads, frogs and turtles in creeks and brought them home to be our pets. We never bought those things at a pet store. We decorated our bedrooms with homemade art and mismatched quilts that our grandmothers made. There were no Pottery Barn purchases made so that our bedrooms would be the envy of all of our friends. Nope, and guess what? We were happy.
I’m not saying that we didn’t play any competitive sports or take music lessons. We did. I took singing lessons and was on the swim team at our neighborhood pool. I enjoyed those things. I’m not saying those things are bad at all. I’m just saying…they aren’t for everyone.
Not everyone’s kids enjoy competitive sports or want to take music lessons. Not everyone can afford those things. Not every parent has time to take their kiddos to fifty different activities each week.
My mother was single, and worked. No way she could have afforded to pay for all of the activities that the children of today participate in. Even if she could afford them, she certainly wouldn’t have been able to take me to all of them.
I guess the whole point of this post/rant is to say, “Hey moms! Give it a rest. Ask me how my kids are, not what they do! Because my answer may just be…
My kids do lots of things…they smile a lot, they sometimes sing loudly in the car, they love like nobody’s business, they hang with their friends, they play a little golf, they watch movies and eat popcorn with lots of butter and they are the coolest kiddos I know!”
That’s what my kids do.