There are a number of reasons you didn’t see me competing at the Olympics this year. I was going to mention my age as a primary factor, but then we watched 38-year-old Constantina Tomescu-Dita win the women’s marathon and Dara Torres win a silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle at age 41. Taking age out of the equation, I will have to admit to an utter lack of training and talent in Olympic events.
Parenting will never be recognized as an Olympic sport, possibly because one’s performance cannot be condensed into a single event. Still, parenting is the ultimate endurance sport. Coaches and spectators on the sidelines are in abundance, always with a word of advice.
The competition between Olympic athletes reminds me of the rivalry that often develops between parents. We size each other up at the park and at social events, often using our children’s accomplishments as a measure of our success.
Mental scoreboards tally points and deductions, keeping pace with the conversation. Sending a child to college this time of year definitely awards points. Kids with bad manners count as an automatic deduction when friends get together.
I wonder what it would be like to have an Olympic announcer analyzing and broadcasting my every parenting decision. It might go something like this:
“It looks like she is giving the children cookies for breakfast. Now that is going to be a three-tenths of a point deduction right there.” Would I get extra points if the kids made the cookies from scratch?
One day, another mom told me that the only reason I have time to teach my children how to do chores is because we homeschool. She explained why her children were not required to help around the house. “With soccer, the tutor and dance after school each day, I couldn’t possibly ask them to do chores.”
I explained that I am completely certain that with our genes, our children will likely not be professional soccer players or dancers. They will need to wear clothes and eat, though, so it seems appropriate to train them to do laundry and cook.
We both ended that conversation convinced we were doing the right thing for our children. Our Olympic parent judging system can be a little subjective.
Other parents aren’t the only scorekeepers. The kids have their own points system.
Sometimes we alternate our homeschool schedule so that we are in school when others are out. Christmas and summer breaks go more smoothly when kids are occupied, and the kids are usually fine with it unless their friends are out doing something more exciting.
That Olympic announcer might say, “Rose is facing a tough field of competition. She did a good job planning the family trip, but will it be enough to overcome the math assignment in the minds of the judges?”
Parenting will never make it as an Olympic sport — the scoring system is just too difficult to define. Each obstacle course is different, each parent faces a unique set of circumstances, making it impossible to predict where we will find common ground.
Still, there are victories to be won. When I came home the other day, the baby rushed to the kitchen and stood there grinning at me. He has a limited vocabulary these days, so he did what he could. He said, “Wow!” several times while applauding my entrance. The scoreboard I keep in my own head flashed a perfect 10. In that moment, I had won the gold.
Her most recent book, Start Homeschooling Today: No Experience Required provides a simple set of instructions that will give the beginning homeschooler the tools and the confidence to begin homeschooling successfully.