I refuse to participate in the American mothering rat race. Parenting has become a way of life and a competitive sport for a huge number of people in this country. Mothers (and fathers) attempt to acheive the most enviable superparent status by enrolling their children in ridiculous amounts of extracurricular activities, hovering like helicopters over their schoolwork, and competing for martyrdom for the most amount of time spent in a vehicle ferrying one’s child to and from all of their dancing, karate, gymnastics, soccer, softball, band and school activities.
I understand that the French have a very different attitude toward child rearing. First of all, affordable daycare for all children is offered in France. Second, the French believe that having a parent dedicated to nothing but the life of the child is actually harmful to the child, who will develop better if they see their parents as well adjusted people in their own rights who are enjoying their own lives instead of living vicariously through their children.
I have chosen to opt out of this parenting sport for two reasons. First, I refuse to be drawn out to compete and I won’t let people make me feel bad for having a life. Second, my mother was a competitive parent before the sport even became popular, and I refuse to make my child’s life in any way as irritating as mine was. I spent my childhood hiding from my mother. I hid in the bathroom with my books. I hid with my best friend outside. If Mom caught me, I was doomed. She had me skip the third grade, and spent the entire summer after the second grade tutoring me so thoroughly that I was AHEAD of my classmates when I started the fourth grade (other than sports – I knew nothing of kickball when I hit my new grade, and was at a disadvantage ever since). She made me do typing lessons. She made me do 4-H, which hardly exists anymore except in rural areas, and I had to do projects in childcare, public speaking, entomology (yes, a bug collection), cooking, sewing and embroidery. I had to do French tapes while I did the dishes. “Bonjour Henri! Quelle surprise!” I slammed and rattled the dishes in the sink and hoped that the tape recorder would fall in. Mom made me run for student office and make posters and put them up all over school. She prepped me for the spelling bee. All against my will. I certainly had no interest in any of these things. So I had a helicopter mom before helicopter moms were the norm. And I in no way want to be like that, or have my daughter feel like she has to hide from me to avoid misery.
My daughter does participate in one extracurricular sport, and we take that very seriously. She plays softball every spring and my husband practices with her year round. I help out when I can, acting as backstop so the balls don’t dent the garage door, and ferrying her to and from practices and games, which I actually enjoy attending. And I admit, she is in the math and science clubs at school, but I had NOTHING to do with that. She tested into both of those on her own. I even found out that last year she served on the student council – I had no idea until the end of the year. So apparently, a child, when left to her own devices, can test into and do activities without having a parent haranguing them to death. It’s nice to know my child is a self-starter, and she certainly doesn’t need me hanging over her to help her achieve.