Monday, June 7, 2010

The Stage Parent

They're known by such labels as Stage Parent, Sports Parent, Pageant Parent - you know them as just plain pains. Now, I'm not talking about parents who have their children in a sport or activity and who support their children as any normal parent would... I'm talking about THOSE parents - the ones who are constantly pressuring their kids to get the starting spot, land the part or win the biggest trophy. The parents who are obsessed with their child being the best at whatever it is they do - at any price - even if the price is their child's own childhood itself.

I spend a fair bit of time at the gym with Little Miss Lauren, watching her every move at gymnastics... cringing whenever a flip lands wrong (usually resulting in a face plant or a head-first landing on a trampoline). I'm always encouraging her, smiling, giving her the thumbs-up and occasionally telling her to behave - just so she knows I'm paying attention and that I'm proud of her... but there is another set of parents (unfortunately usually sitting right next to me) who feel the need to take their "loving encouragement" to the next level.

Their little girl (just turned 6, so she's still really young) is on Laurens team at gymnastics apparently the above mentioned parents are living vicariously through this poor child. She's a beautiful little girl, always happy and smiling - but it is obvious that she is pushed quite hard. Both parents (and little brother) sit up in the viewing area four nights a week analyzing every move she makes - "she needs to do (fill in the blank) to fix that round off" or "She just needs to push a little harder to make that (fill in the blank) better". They've got their laptop up there inputting who knows what data, analyzing every move this poor kindergarten child does. Of course she's not in just one class, that meets two nights per week, but two classes two nights per week - that poor child, at six years old, is at the gym four nights per week until after dinnertime. All the time her parents pushing her to climb the rope a little higher or land that back handspring - it's really quite sad.

The really sad thing is that she will not make a move unless she is positive her parents are watching - maybe the only praise she gets is when Mumsy and Dad feel she's put in a good enough effort - who knows? It's obvious she's under a lot of pressure as she's constantly causing trouble with the other girls when the coach (and parents) aren't watching.

It seems that there are these types of parents everywhere, I see parents who push their kids at seven years old to be the quarterback at pee-wee football - positive that their performance now will mean a scholarship when college comes. The parents whose children are in twelve different activities because they're grasping at straws, hoping one of them turns out to be the one thing the child is a prodigy at. I just watched a show the other night Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC following a few girls through the process of a pageant. It was amazing how the parents pushed a two year old coaching her to learn to say "I love pageants" and "I want to win trophies" even though she had no interest in any of it whatsoever.

When do kids get to just be kids? What happened to roller skating on the sidewalk or playing kickball in the field with your friends. When do they have time to get bored so they can think up fun, imaginative ways to play new games? Do they always have to be the best and brightest at everything - or do some things get to just be for fun?

I am sad to say that the little girl at gymnastics left our gym yesterday. I'd love to tell you that it's because her Mom and Dad decided to let her just be a kid - no, quite the opposite. She's now going to be schlepped 45 minutes away four or five days a week to another gym two counties away that is more prestigious - where she can reach her "full potential" - yeah, right. Poor Kid.

- Liz

Posted by Liz of Pink Lemonade


Anna said...

I watched that show out of a sheer "train wreck" curiosity! It was horrifying how those moms especially pushed those little girls! The makeup, false front teeth when their baby teeth fell out, fake tans...good Lord! I wish my 17 year old was still a little girl!

Sharon said...

This is just sad. I actually couldn't bring myself to watch the program after how sick the commercials made me feel. It was ridiculous when the mother is holding up her 8 month old pretending to say, "I love pageants, " as the baby starts to squirm and ball. No wonder these kids end up all screwed up.