Written By Jen
Jen, travel writer and founder of UrbanMoms philosophizes about modern day mothering, social media, and life's next adventure.Read Her Blog "Mom's The Word"
I was a total non-athlete as a kid. I was a bit overweight and a lot lazy. Plus, I was intimidated by the thought of competition – basically I was afraid to look stupid in front of my friends. I especially hated Track & Field and Cross Country. I was so jealous of the kids who ran fast or jumped far. Life seemed so easy for them.
Flash forward 20+ years and I am starting to see things from a different angle and I’m realizing that everything isn’t exactly as perfect as I thought for the kids who win the race. Don’t get me wrong, winning is great fun and a huge opportunity. The problem is that once you’re good at something people start to notice. And people start to watch you. And people start to comment. And people start to have expectations. And, unfortunately, not everyone is rooting for you to do well.
My 9-year-old son is a great athlete and a gifted long distance runner. On top of that he is driven. The good thing is that the other kids are usually excitedly cheering him on. It’s not his peers who get all weird. Unfortunately, it is some of the parents. And a few of them can even get a little nasty. I’ve recently figured out that when you have a kid who is good at something there is an unwritten rule that you either pretend it doesn’t matter or pretend you didn’t notice. I try not to talk about it for a few reasons a) it makes him nervous and embarrassed, b) I don’t want to look like I am bragging and c) people don’t seem to want me to.
Sometimes people will ask “So, how did he do?” (just to be polite I think) and I’ll answer truthfully. Like one time a parent blurted out proudly to everyone “My guy came in 6th! Isn’t that fabulous! I’m so proud!”. When she asked how my son did I said “He came in 1st” and the parent actually responded “Well lawdy daw!” and walked off. Hmm. How should I have responded? After all, you asked.
Or another time when one parent was asking a group of parents how their respective children did at the Track Meet. When she got to me she said with a sigh “Don’t bother. I don’t even want to know.” Great. So as long as your child isn’t top of the heap you can brag about it loudly and proudly but if they’re #1 you keep your mouth shut?! That doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Just a few weeks ago my son ran his first 10k. He wanted to do it, we didn’t pressure him or even suggest it. Neither my husband nor I were running it this year so we had to make arrangements for him to run with another adult. But he wanted to try so who am I to discourage him? But I can not tell you how many people asked me how we could possibly allow a 9-year-old to run 10k. They were outwardly disgusted and were appalled to think that a kid had actually trained for a race – “That’s a bit over the top” one mom said with a smirk.
But then they were even more disgusted to learn that he actually didn’t train but just ran it for fun – “You weren’t worried about him getting injured?!” one mom blurted out in shock. It seemed that no matter what the situation, whether we were pushy uber-parents or extremely laid back, they had decided that it was just plain wrong.
So, strangely now, I feel uncomfortable talking about how well my son runs. So much so that I find myself cheering twice as loud for the other kids and overcompensating in my congratulations. I feel awkwardly apologetic and I can tell that sometimes he does too. So, now I can see that although winning is awesome and fun and rewarding it comes with a whole bunch of other stuff that I never saw from the other side.