As a parent I spend a lot of time watching my kids do stuff. Stuff that I drove them to, mostly. Piano, soccer, Tae Kwon Do, swimming, chorus, WHATEVER; the point is that it’s a typical part of my day to 1) get in the car, 2) drive the children somewhere, 3) sit there and watch them do something, and 4) get them back in the car and go home.
My life is pretty glamorous, I admit.
And I suppose that as they get older and the various STUFF they do takes longer periods of time, I may not stick around. I might just drop off and go on my merry way. (Where will I go? Home to eat bonbons, I hope! Or just across town to drop the other kid at something ELSE, more likely.) But as it stands right now, I usually hang around—along with a slew of other parents—and watch my kids do whatever they’re doing.
And up until recently, that wasn’t a problem.
I have to say that I don’t miss soccer one bit. I mean, the great outdoors are SWELL and all, but watching an entire game in a downpour or standing at a practice where the temperature is 40 degrees and the wind is whipping around just isn’t my idea of a good time.
And where we used to go for Tae Kwon Do, the waiting area was big enough to hold three adults comfortably. Which was fine, except that there were usually a dozen adults and five or six kids in there. Don’t miss that, either.
But swimming, AHHHHH, swimming means sitting in some plastic chairs on the pool deck, chatting with fellow moms, and occasionally commenting on how it is SO HOT in here, maybe we can just angle that fan a little bit this way. For an hour we sit there and watch our kids swim and discuss weighty world matters like which of our kids is the laziest, what we’ll be having for dinner, and—until recently—politics. It was actually sort of relaxing.
So, a couple of weeks ago the swim team coach—who is probably in college, but looks as though he’s about twelve—came over to those of us who typically sit and watch practice and told us that there’s a new rule going into effect: Parents are no longer allowed in the pool area, because it’s “a distraction.”
Yes, we’ve been banned from practice.
We all said okay, and then exchanged quizzical looks and raised eyebrows and I sort of forgot about it until the next practice, when I ran into a fellow mom lurking in the hallway. She’s the person I normally sit next to during practice—let’s call her DC—and we discussed our potential as distractions. We sit pretty far back from the pool itself, and we talk quietly, and none of our kids have ever seemed to pay the slightest attention to us. In fact, on the rare occasion when I feel the need to give Monkey a Mama Death Glare and execute a few hand signals that roughly translate to mean “Stop acting like a hyperactive porpoise and pay attention to the coach,” I’ve had a lot of trouble getting his attention.
In short, we were flummoxed. But we sat in the hallway, like the obedient folks we are.
Well, it turns out that one of the OTHER parents got her panties in a wad over this new decree. She confronted the coach to ask WHY she would no longer be allowed to observe. I applaud her chutzpah, especially as she brings the youngest child to the session and I don’t blame her for wanting to watch—her little girl can’t be more than 5 or 6.
As it was reported back to us by this mom, the coach became EXTREMELY flustered when questioned. He repeated, again, that the parents are a distraction, and this mom pointed out that she has NEVER seen ANY child pay the slightest attention to any of us. And then, apparently, he blurted out that DC and I sit there and talk about him.
It was at this point, in the retelling, that DC and I looked at each other and LOST OUR SHIT. I can’t recall who recovered from the laughing first; I think DC said something like, “What??” while I sputtered, “Yes, we’re just a couple of middle-aged moms, not watching our kids, no, we’re GOSSIPING ABOUT THE COACH because that’s how we roll!” The mom telling the story laughed along with us, and once our giggling died down a bit, she said that she’d told the coach “No, you’re mistaken, I sit with them every practice and you’ve never even been mentioned!”
“Well, one day I was demonstrating a stroke for the kids and they were LOOKING RIGHT AT ME,” he told her.
This, of course, set us off again. WE LOOKED AT HIM! While he was DEMONSTRATING SOMETHING! Clearly we are GIANT RUDE MEANIES. Who couldn’t possibly be observing a practice, but are instead saying unkind things about a young man who is brave enough to spend his free time taming a poolful of (let’s face it) fairly mediocre swimmers.
That’s just the sort of assholes we are.
By this point, DC and I weren’t sure what to do. Do we try to reassure the coach we think he’s great and we would never gossip about him? If so, what would be the suitable method for communicating that? (I’m thinking either a note in his locker, or a text message, right?) Do we tell the coach he’s an insecure weenie and he should stop taking it out on a couple of moms who really just want to watch our kids swim? Do we do nothing?
So far, we’ve done nothing. The woman who confronted him was given permission to return to the pool deck—possibly because she hinted that she was thinking of pulling her kids out if she couldn’t observe—but has stayed in the hallway with us because she thinks it’s “not fair” that we’ve been evicted.
Yet another mom heard this story and said she couldn’t believe it was true, so she went to talk to the program director, who assured her that the decision was a blanket one based on something that’s happening on one of the OTHER teams (sounds like an extreme case of helicopter parents), and that it has NOTHING to do with our group. Hmmmmm.
In the meantime, I feel sort of bad for the coach. I do. But I also really dislike sitting in the hallway. And it’s possible that whenever I see him OUTSIDE of the pool area, now, I stare a little. Maybe.