September 11, 2006

Pardon me, but, I have to ask, can you maybe just shut your mouths?

Sunday was packed full of things to do. But we still managed, all of us, to steal away and let the kids take their shoes off and run around and play at the beach playground. It was a perfect afternoon for a spur of the moment beach visit.

I sat sort of in the middle of the playground under some shade with the baby on my chest as I kept an eye on the Girl Child who was playing with an old camp friend (the Girl Child was remarkably upfront about requesting that the mother of said camp friend push her on the tire swing). It was very peaceful as I sat there, rubbing my cheek against the baby's head and cooing at him while he tried to gum my thumb off. I actually started to relax.

And then came two mothers who sat beside me. One briefly remarked to me that our two daughters were in the same kindergarten class but, before I could introduce myself, she turned to her friend and they tuned me out. Oh, but I wish I could have tuned them out. See, they weren't just any two moms, they were Alpha-Moms. Alpha-Mom1 kicked things off by talking about her problems with her publishing company, about how she wasn't getting the support she needed, even though her book had, at one point, been below 1000 on Amazon for a whole week! Alpha-Mom2 really didn't have much to say about that, couldn't really top it, but did manage to express a lot of sympathy and support.

Then, however, the battleground shifted. It turned to their children. The big guns came out as they each tried to out do each other on the "my child is doing more interesting activities than your child front".

It was horrifying. They sat there and, in the name of good parenting, tried to top each other while pretending to share information. It went from soccer here ("if they get good enough, maybe they can be on traveling teams together!"), to ballet here, to tennis there, back to figure skating, and on. Alpha 2 got some of her own back against the book thing by pointing out that she had signed up for every available slot for lunch room monitoring and recess monitoring. Alpha 1 countered by playing up her own college athletics experiences (to look at this woman, you would be astounded to hear she ever broke a sweat on purpose, by the way) and then going into how she wanted her girl to learn how to play squash. That kind of topped it all since Alpha 2 had never even heard of squash.

[Full disclosure: I had already tried to sign the Girl Child up for squash but she has to wait until she's 7. I did it because I thought she'd like it and it would be fun for us to play together.]

As Alpha 1 extolled the virtues of squash and how she had played in college and all of her many triumphs on the squash court, I gave up. I got up and walked away. I couldn't take it any longer. My own anxiety level was shooting through the roof as I realized how poorly (read: sensibly) scheduled my daughter was. Seriously. I mean, I had heard of parents like these but never seen them in the wild, in their native habitat -- the playground.

I walked over to the parents of the kid my daughter was playing with, introduced myself, and begged for shelter. They kindly took me in and calmed me down.

Oh, I forgot, the only time the two Alphas paid any attention to me was when I had occasion to address a few remarks in Norwegian to the Girl Child. The two Alphas fell silent and then immediately wanted to know what language I was speaking to my daughter in. I have to think that the demand for Norwegian language tutors is going to skyrocket in Westport as a result. Just skyrocket.

Posted by Random Penseur at September 11, 2006 09:40 AM | TrackBack

How do you say "Confusion to the Alphas!" in Norwegian? I went looking for the Norwegian word for "squash" and apparently it is simply, "squash."

Posted by: MCNS at September 11, 2006 11:56 AM

Parents like that are the reason why psychopharmaceutical use is skyrocketing among the under-18 set. Grr, do I hate listening to moms (or dads) play "can you top this"! Their kids turn into super-achievement-focused automatons who don't care what they do as long as they're the best at it. Those are the parents who come storming into the classroom demanding to know why their little scholar got an A and not an A-plus - or worse yet, why their little scholar got written up for plagiarizing and can you PROVE it was REALLY plagiarism and isn't it somehow YOUR fault that THEY "didn't know" it was cheating ... and so forth. Gah!

Posted by: Caroline at September 11, 2006 12:21 PM

Argh! Well, you survived and even got a story out of it, right? And who knows when those kids might need Norwegian? Might set them on a whole career path... ;)

Posted by: Hannah at September 11, 2006 04:06 PM

My poor, deprived son is taking swimming lessons and that's it. My husband and I decided long ago to stay away from the Alpha race. We don't want it for us or our kids.

It's always so silly to hear when other people start competing though.

Posted by: Jordana at September 11, 2006 05:21 PM

When did it go from "What's best for my child" to "What makes my child the best"?

It's just glorified child abuse.

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