I recently had the ignominious pleasure of attending my daughters’ gymnastics recital. I don’t know if you have ever experienced any sort of children’s program, but spoiler alert, they are universally awful. It is true, children’s plays… terrible. Children’s music performances, dance recitals, sporting events…. all the worst. Picture one child kicking a ball the wrong way while another picks flowers completely ignoring their surroundings. I mean, sure they can be cute and charming, and entertaining just from the absurdity of their actions, however; they are never a top-notch, quality performance for this ADHD mamma.
This performance was just a train wreck. I mean the basic skills were all there, and most of the tiny performers were demonstrating their cartwheels and “sassy” poses with style. Not my Angels. Baby Bird became enraged that someone was “touching her”, and began to howl, forcing the teacher to hold her throughout the performance, and she absolutely refused to do her tiny flips.
Z was truly terrible at all her “skills”, but worse, she was overtly distracting to the other children. She would come onto the floor and flop around like a fish, just long enough to be allowed to return to the waiting group where she would giggle and talk and cause generalized chaos. I kept glaring at her and making my stern mommy face, mouthing “no”. She looked me in the eye and would laugh and blow me kisses while continuing her behavior. (later I asked her why she persisted in acting this way when she knew I was upset, and she said, “Well, you were already mad…” Way to go for broke kid.)
At the end of this atrocity during which I should have yanked them off the floor, and taken them to the bathroom for a “talking to”, everyone got medals. Yay. Baby Bird even medaled in bars which was an event that she mysteriously did not even complete secondary to her melt-down.
Afterwards, they were so proud of their medals, and I sat them down and just told them how terrible they were at gymnastics. I tried to explain that it was more the fact that they disrespected their teachers and classmates made me so disappointed as well as their complete lack of effort.
Later, I was talking to my husband about how hard it was to not be supportive of my children and to have to tell them hard truths and not act as if they were precious, wonderful angels just based on their mere existence. I asked if I was the worst mother in the world.
He said, “No, the thing that bothers you is that you were acting just like your mom.”
I thought back to my mother, and a conversation we had many years ago. I was in college, and a vocal performance and drama major. My mother sat me down and said, “Sweetheart, you have a really nice voice and all, but I hope you can make a living doing this, because you are going to have to move out when you finish college. You might want to consider changing your major to something with a job.”
It was some of the best advice I ever received and completely changed the trajectory of my life. I thought about all those poor kids on the first night of American Idol and the number of times people have uttered the phrase, “Why didn’t their mamma tell them they couldn’t sing?”
I realized having the courage to tell my daughters truth doesn’t make me the worst mother in the world, but instead, maybe one of the best.