Going For The Gold

Parenthood remains the greatest single preserve
of the amateur.

Alvin Toffler

I come from a very competitive family. We’re not super-outdoorsy or athletic, but just try to come between one of us and a piece of fried chicken! At our annual family reunion, we have horseshoe and ping-pong tournaments for kids and adults, complete with poster-board tracking systems and trophies.

And while I’m not in the least bit athletic, I do love to watch the Olympics. From the opening to the closing ceremonies, I’m glued to the television. (I guess my hubby is an “Olympics widower.” Poor guy!)

So I got to thinking: if this parenting thing were an Olympic sport, perhaps I could be a medallist—or at least a contender. See if you can identify with some of these sports my friends and I practice:

  • Weightlifting – Sure, those big guys in spandex can bench press twice their body weight, but can they carry a thirty-pound toddler, a purse full of the latest Happy Meal toys, and a bag of half-melted groceries?
  • High jump – My buddies have hit the ceiling so many times after their teenager came home an hour past curfew that they’ve started wearing bicycle helmets while waiting on the sofa.
  • Long jump – There may not be a regulation long jump course in my living room, but I can cover the distance from the couch to the television in less than a second in order to shield my son’s eyes from a suggestive commercial.
  • Curling – This event doesn’t involve a broom and a funny-looking puck, but does require you to raise your upper lip at the gross dinner conversation your teenage son is having with his father. Extra points are awarded for not making gagging sounds.
  • Hurdles – Any parent is a pro at this. It comes from years of experience going to the bathroom in the middle of the night without stepping on clothes, backpacks, or small living creatures.
  • Balance beam – I may not be able to do a back flip on a four-inch piece of wood, but I’d like to see any Olympian juggle kids’ practices, church obligations, work, marriage and family demands without getting dizzy and taking a dive.

While parenting is not actually a competitive sport, we moms are champions at comparing ourselves to others, and measuring our kids against impossible standards. We want our children to be as fast as Michael Phelps, as photogenic as Shawn Johnson, and as focused as Nastia Liukin. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t happen–and we feel like the competitor who just missed the bronze medal.

Before I became a mom, I read all the “right” parenting books, attended classes, and decided that I would never spank, yell, criticize, or use television as a babysitter. I thought I was being realistic: after all, I didn’t say that I would nurse for two years, use cloth diapers, or sew my son’s clothing out of recycled draperies.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for my family. But I need to remember that I’m human, and my children are, too.  I’m the queen of unrealistic expectations–I have the crown and sceptor in my closet to prove it–which only sets me up for disappointment.
So I’m slowly learning to let go of my unattainable goals and simply enjoy the sons God has given me. If I can eventually achieve that sense of contentment, it will be worth its weight in gold.

©2008, Dena Dyer

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