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When Did We Lose The Plot?

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Once upon a time I married a Norwegian and moved to Oslo.

The End.

Just Kidding…(sort of.)

Panicked about my new change of address and six months pregnant, I wondered what in the hell I’d gotten myself into. The closest I came to speaking Norwegian was a lousy imitation of that Swedish chef on The Muppets…not to mention the fact that I’d never babysat a day in my life or changed a soiled diaper. Snow and darkness made me incredibly irritable, and even though I’d scoured the Junior League cookbook, I couldn’t find a stinkin’ recipe for that scrumptious Norse staple… fish balls. (Actually I had no interest in preparing those little buggers, I just wanted to know how the hell one goes about castrating a fish’s testicles.)

Sensing my nervousness, my new mother-in-law pulled me aside to give me some advice. Amidst the backdrop of mountains perpetually draped in snow, and local fisherman boring holes in the iced-over fjords for their supper, she said, “Living in Norway is quite simple. Be the best skier by day…and the prettiest woman by night.”

I froze…literally and figuratively, paralyzed in fear.

Needless to say the Norwegian experiment didn’t work out so well. Six years and two kids later I was back in Seattle, and soon learned that my previous idea of stress was to be totally redefined. Try being a single parent with a couple of kids who play every sport known to man. Now that’s pressure!

If you’ve ever lived in the Northwest and had children in soccer, I’m sure you spotted my rain soaked self watching three to five games a day as kids splattered mud up and down the field. I was the flask nipping menopausal mommy looking for a wet poncho contest.

The other dedicated parents huddled along the sidelines under golf umbrellas screaming encouragement to their drenched little warriors. Each time a player dribbled the ball down field, the umbrellas would rotate in unison like radar dishes tracking blips.

Somehow it seemed like it was always my turn to bring the snack. The ref would blow his halftime whistle and the thundering cleated hoofs of our scholarship hopefuls would tear across the field to prey on orange slices in a Serengeti Wildebeest stampede. More than once I’ve made a fashion statement sporting flung mutilated rinds hanging from my hair without feeling the added weight or other parents bringing it to my attention.

At one such joyous occasion, I overheard a couple discussing the day’s activities. The woman was barking orders like an air traffic controller at her flustered husband.

“I have to leave now to take Nick to his game in Bellevue. You wait here and when Lizzie is done, drop her at the next game in Renton. Don’t forget to grab Maggie at her lacrosse practice and deliver her to Susie’s house at three for the birthday party. They’re going roller-skating. The present and her skates are in the trunk. Don’t be late to pick her up. She still remembers the time you left her in Mukilteo and she spent the night clinging to a park bench. Remember to drop Lizzie off at the 4:30 ferry to Bainbridge Island, because her class is doing a production of the Sound of Music for senior citizens. Her lederhosen are in the trunk next to the skates. I’ll grab Nick at the game and deliver him to the end of the season pizza banquet. I’m in charge of trophies and awards or I’d have you do it. Don’t forget Maggie has a piano recital at 6 and she needs to practice. If you have a chance before the Bainbridge ferry, could you get Lizzy into the orthodontist so he can glue on the bracket from her braces she popped off in the first game? I’ll meet you at the piano recital. Try to get there early to save us seats and if you forget the camcorder again I’m cutting you off for another month!” And then she was off, like a Tasmanian devil, whirling her way up the slippery hill to her four-wheel drive vehicle.

While witnessing these priceless humanitarians dedicating their lives to offspring, it was quite obvious that the time for her meltdown was near. I suspect that when she caught her breath and oxygen levels stabilized, she found herself shaking uncontrollably, pleading for a Valium.

What has happened to us? In a rite of self-sacrifice are we so busy orchestrating children’s events that we have forgotten our own lives once held dreams and aspirations? I know each generation makes a vow to make things better for their children and give them more, but haven’t we tipped the scale a little too far? How are our kids going to top this?… I’m putting my money on robots and meds.

This Mother’s Day do yourself a favor, sit down, take a load off…and by all means don’t look at your Day Planner!

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29 Comments

  1. I was NOT that Mom, EVER. You don’t have to say it, I’ve been hanging my head in shame for years, but I could never do that to my kids, or myself for that matter. If they said they wanted to do something or be a cheerleader or play soccer I support(ed) their dreams but never at the sacrifice of theirs or my life. I’ve always felt life is complicated enough without all that extra to-ing and for-ing. I’ve done it ( and will likely do some more) but not at loss of sanity. Please note, even though I am a mom, I don’t celebrate the day as a mom. I am catching a play to LA this weekend to be the daughter celebrating the day for my mother. Yeah, it’s complicated. :-)

    • Good for you, Brenda. I’m glad you put guidelines on the craziness and made the decision to keep your sanity. Hip Horrah! As far as Mother’s Day goes, I don’t tend to celebrate it either. One year I think we went to I-Hop. How does it get any better than a menu with photos? Rooty Tooty Fresh n’ Fruity! I decided nothing could top that so I stopped there.

  2. I saw an SUV the other day with a license plate that read “SCHLEP”. It’s my least favorite word in the English language. I thought it was because I’m a stepmom (full time with a sports fanatic teenager) and was relieved to hear bio Moms imploding from today’s overscheduled kids. Family dinners? What are they? I used to know and love them.

    • Hi Marianne, I couldn’t agree more about the word “Schlep.” It sounds like a russet potato is wedged in your windpipe. Yes, I think I remember sitting down to dinner with familiar looking family members, but it’s been years and I don’t think I’d recognize them today. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. Aw jeez, that was us for about a year. Then, in a moment of sanity, my wife looked at me and said, “This is it. I’m done.”

    And the funny thing? The next year came along and there was no soccer games or T-ball or practices, we ate more meals at home and we had spare time that we actually spent with the kids instead of yelling encouragement that they never heard from across the field.

    We made the right decision. F*ck the soccer and hockey moms and dads. I’d rather spend time with my kids than have them subjected to psychopathic Type A personality who’s kid must win! At! All! Costs! and mine just happens to be in the way of that goal.

    Good post, Annie. As per usual.

    • Tobin, somehow your comment went into the spam folder. So glad I retrieved you. Sorry about that! Sounds like you guys have a good handle on it. Yes, there are a lot of competitive parents out there. It can get pretty rough to listen to. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Tobin. I was wondering where you went!

  4. That is so not my life. Thank goodness for my lazy ass kids. They both took TKD, then quit when they got their blk belts. No organized sports, and the only activities the younger one ever goes to are at school from which she can walk home or get rides from other parents. I lucked out this year, my sixteen yr-old (this Friday!) has an eighteen yr-old boyfriend who drives her home after art club. Jeez, I might have to find her a car next year.

    • Wow…so far the comments have surprised me. I’m beginning to feel like I must have been the only manic mom out there. Hey Lynne, congrats on your daughter’s 16th birthday. That’s a milestone.

  5. My son played baseball all over the world – literally. He played in New Zealand and Australia in the International games and spent a Christmas holiday at major league camp in Vero Beach. He played on college campuses all over the Southeast during high school with the traveling AAU baseball team. He played one year in college, got homesick and came home to attend a local college. For two years I used my leave time one and two days at a time in order to drive him and aother player wherever they needed to go. I remember thinking one day when he was 17, that I was so lucky to be spending this time with him. Was it hectic? Yes, especially when he tried to work in football and basketball and boy scouts. Eventually we narrowed it to just baseball and that was just fine. Sometimes you have to choose what is most important and that is a lesson for all of us. It pays to narrow the focus. We didn’t miss any of the other activities.

    • I agree, Renee. You may have to narrow the focus, especially if you want to stay competitive. I guess I am coming from a childhood where parents didn’t drive all over the place. You had your friends at school…and your friends from the neighborhood. If they walked outside and yelled “Dinner” and you couldn’t hear it, you were too far from home. Quite a change from today. I ran from morning until night from one kids event to another. It was absolutely crazy.

  6. Wait. We’re supposed to do stuff for our kids? I thought the whole reason to have kids was so that *they* could do stuff for *me*, like mixing my drinks, running to the store to buy me cigarettes and rubbing my feet.

    Huhn. Oops.

  7. We try to balance and have fun while we are running around, but I’m exhausted at night when I finally have time for ‘me’.

    • I hear you about being tired. All that running around and fresh air would wear me out. By the time I got home and had to look at a stove I sometimes lost my motivation. Thanks for commenting, Jodi!

  8. Nicky, you crack me up! I like the way you think. If you can make it fly and you can get your kids to rub your feet and get you a drink, write a book. That sucker would sell!

  9. I saw other parents doing this. It wasn’t me. I didn’t even attend all their games. When my husband was trying to get my daughter on the elite travel teams I fought against it because I didn’t want to give up all my weekends and family time to travel all over the place. My daughter was good, but I didn’t see the fire in her belly to make me want to sacrifice my life. Two weeks into her first college soccer season she quit sports forever. I resisted saying “I told you so” to my husband. Personally, I think our youth is a time to be introduced to a a wide range of art and culture and public service and education. I hate the narrowing of focus in these over-programmed kids.

    • Julie, I know all about that fire in the belly. As a parent it feels right to honor their dream. I knew my daughter didn’t have anything near a flame when she forgot when the tryout was and missed it. Also, I understand your view on introducing a wide range of art, culture, public service and education. It is important to be well-rounded…I just wish kids didn’t have as much pressure when it comes to college application. But that’s another topic!

  10. I’m sorry – have you been following me around? I live in Seattle and if you substitute ‘lacrosse’ for ‘soccer,’ and complicate the snack tasks by adding nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free needs, I’m the menopausal mom with a shot of Bailey’s in her coffee as her kid comes flying toward her, muddy from head-to-toe and is forced to tuck herself in to a 30-gallon Hefty bag before I let her get in to my car after the game/practice.

    Lucky for me, my other kid is a girly-girl who whines about having to watch the games in the rain, but doesn’t force me to drive all over the Puget Sound schlepping her to her sporting activities. You’re right, we’ve lost our minds (and our school-sponsored sports and extracurricular activities which force us to use our own time making sure our kids get the exercise and other things they need).

    PS – if you’re still in the Seattle area, email me so we can trade sips on our flasks from time to time ;-)

  11. Kario,
    Now that’s more like it! Bailey’s in your coffee. Much better than the Popov in mine. (Just kidding, Mom!) Glad to know I’m not the only frantic one left on the planet. I’ve been feeling like everyone got the memo except me. Actually, my schedule is tame now, but there were days that I was frothing from the mouth like a rabid dog. Thanks for the great comment. Unfortunately I live in L.A. now or I’d meet you on a lacrosse field!

  12. Luckily, I think, my kids didn’t get into sports. Fun post and great advice for celebrating Mother’s Day. I’m actually heading to Seattle this week, to visit friends, one in particular who is performing with her band. I’m also taking a memoir writing workshop in Wallingford. Can’t wait to revisit my old stomping grounds. ;)

    • Monica, have fun visiting your old stomping grounds! A memoir class in Wallingford sounds terrific. Now that’s my idea of celebrating Mother’s Day.

  13. Hockey mom – that’s me – twelves years and counting. Wouldn’t change a thing … Well maybe an extra shot of Bailey’s in my coffee (I’ve been known to carry around the miniBailey’s, kid you not). The fire in their belly is not being stoked for scholarships either (Canadian universities do not award athletic scholarships), so believe me, if ever I fail to see their passion, I’m happy to sit back and build one in my family room and watch a movie. In the meantime, I keep gassing up the car and filling my travel mug with coffee :)

  14. Love that, Astra. Wow, I have to say the comments on this post are surprising. I would have thought there might have been a few people who felt their children’s schedules were a little excessive…and maybe the amount of driving parents do. I can’t help but think that kids today seem so much more stressed out than when I was growing up. No one took anxiety drugs or ran from one event to another. If there was one thing planned it was a huge day. I’m not saying it was perfect, but life was a lot similar and kids had time to read, not sit in front of the television or on their cellphones. So I guess running them to sports event isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You are an amazing mom, Astra. Keep filling that travel mug and enjoy these hockey days with your boys!

  15. Haha. You hooked me at the very start. Norway. Wow, what a brave soul you were. My mom was Swedish and my dad Norwegian so I grew up with that disgusting fish soaked in lye diss called lutefisk. EVERY Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

    I was a single mom for most of my parenting years but just had one child, so no jockeying schedules and being a “sports mom.” Enjoyed this post immensely, Annie.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and reading, Judy. Can’t believe you had to endure lutefisk. Any fish that you bury is just wrong on so many levels! Glad that you were spared a crazy sports schedule. Thanks again!

  16. Annie, I was that mom. The Daughter took ballet, jazz, choir, and swimming lessons. The Son took Aikido, Tae Kwan Do, swimming, football, basketball, and art lessons. Back in the day, also a single mother, the only hat I wore was the mom hat. After many years of listening to the daughter complain of not liking ballet, seeing the Son sweat bullets before every “belt” competition, and having to give up all of my free time as they danced, ran down a court, kicked a mitt, and floundered in the swimming pool, I started resenting it. I made the decision to cut them off from any sport or activity they weren’t into. Thus, we were left with nothing for the Daughter, and everything for the Son. I almost slapped him when I heard him say, “Mommy, quitters never win and winners never quit!” Why is it that it’s clichés like these that always come back to bite us in the ass? Nevertheless, thank the good Lord for the daughter’s apathy which left me with a little extra time. If I had to go back in time, they’d take swimming lessons and that is it. I would be content knowing that I’ve done my part in preventing them from drowning. As for the rest, they can be spectators like other children whose parents are selfish but smart. hee hee! Loved the post! My favorite line–”Try to get there early to save us seats and if you forget the camcorder again I’m cutting you off for another month!” bwhahaha! :)

  17. Bella,
    You sound like you were on a crash course like me…until you saw the light. Your son made an interesting comment….they sure are the great equalizers. Just when you think you’re doing a decent job they let you know you aren’t. I wish I liked the swimming plan. Unfortunately the smell of chlorine made me sick to my stomach. I’d walk near those indoor pools and hurl chunks. Also it’s the green hair thing I wasn’t working with. Thanks for your fun comment, Bella!

  18. I don’t know much but I’d like to know if we are making things better for the children by over-scheduling and over-stimulation. And having been to Oslo, and lived in Seattle, I think I’d take Seattle.

  19. Hi Dani,
    I feel the same way. I read something recently that sort of hit home. “9-year olds today have Facebook, Twitter, phones, and iPods. When I was their age, I had a coloring book, crayons, chalk, and imagination.”

    I haven’t a clue where all this is going, but I will say that as a child I never felt as if I had to make a stand concerning societal pressures as often as kids have to do nowadays. Today kids are asked if they accept their sexuality, their friend’s sexuality, their parent’s sexuality, their roles as males and females, along with tolerating the dividing pressure that divorce brings. They must become masterful at taking tests and making grades, skilled at competitive sports, while still finding time to balance charity work and extra curricular activities which are all things high school counselors ram down kids throats in order to be a candidate for college. Not to mention, making friendships at the most awkward time of ones life when kids are willing to bully if there is the slightest deviance from the norm. No wonder we see an increase in therapy, drug and alcohol use, Rx prescriptions, cutting, suicide, bullying, etc. (which reminds me…I was at Target yesterday and a 50ish woman in front of me had to show her I.D. to buy replacement razor blades. The cashier explained that customers must always show identification when buying razor blades, alcohol, and a certain type of toothpaste.) Let’s just say that I’m saddened by what I see. Kids don’t have a clue what being a child is all about…and it appears a lot of parents don’t even understand what they have lost, but will defend to the death their ability to parent while their kids sit at dinner with their phones glued to their heads.

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