While watching the Olympics the past couple of weeks and witnessing America’s medal domination, it occurred to me we should really add a new event to the games — one in which I am almost certain our “athletes” from Team USA would take home gold in every four years.
This “sport” is in its infancy, but the fiercest competitors are already showing great skill and acumen. And while it does require a little practice, it does not require you to be physically fit at all, and you can be any age to participate.
What is this exciting new sport for all, you ask? It’s called Mom-shaming! And it is open to both male and female competitors, though I suspect, much like in gymnastics, the female “shamers” or “shame-nasts” will ultimately get most of the attention.
Last week, while on a beach vacation with my kids, I got some gold-medal-worthy mom shaming from one of our future athletes.
When we first arrived at our condo, our kids were screaming to go to the pool before we could get the first bag out of the car. They have both taken swimming lessons every summer since they could walk, as you must do when you live in an area surrounded by water.
Anders — who turns 7 this week — has been at a “Mommy can sit by the pool and read a book and watch from the lounge chair” level for a couple of summers. Such a beautiful, beautiful level! But sort of a wasted level, because Ellen, who is 4, and really more of a natural fish (she would say mermaid) than her brother, still requires you to be in the pool with her at all times.
She is a pretty good swimmer and just needs assistance when she tires, but she is adamant she no longer needs her puddle jumper. (That’s the modern-day version of floaties, old-school moms.) I don’t want her to rely on it, so I don’t make her wear it, because I want her to become a stronger swimmer. So we are always in the pool with her or very close by. (Not a fun level!)
So, we finally get bags thrown on beds and swimsuits out and head down to the pool. Anders immediately does a cannonball and splashes everyone. Nice! And Ellen jumps in right by this family of folks I’m sure are from some landlocked state because they have their 4-to-5-year-old child in floaties AND have a ring around her waist. And both parents and grandparents are hovering around her as if she may drown at any second. It was actually the first time I saw helicopter parenting in its literal form.
Being in a new environment, my little mermaid got a little disoriented as she came up from her first plunge. When she emerged from the water she was trying to find which way the wall was, and she went up and down a couple of times looking for it, taking a big breath each time. It did look like she was in distress for a nano-second, but I quickly went to assist her and pushed her in the right direction so she could kick her little mermaid-self back to the steps. If we had been alone in the pool, I would have thought nothing of the “event” — she was just getting her bearings. She was safe the whole time, and it was no big deal.
Ohhhh, but the Helicopters gave me such a stern look of disapproval that I had to say, “No, she’s fine, she can swim.” To which Grandfather Helicopter looked at me with stankface and said in a voice dripping with ridicule, “Oh can she?”
Oh my god. Did he really just say that to me? An image from “Jaws 2” popped into my mind, where Jaws came out of the water and ate a Harbor Patrol helicopter and its pilot as he was trying to save the kids at Cable Junction. Good job, sweet shark. Good job.
So anyway, I just smiled and judged them silently as the ones who were doing their child the ultimate disservice, as she might as well have been in the pool inside a giant inflatable bubble. Bubble Child is never going to learn to swim like that, Paw Paw ‘Copter.
Ellen, of course, did fine the rest of the week, to the point where we could just sit at the edge of the pool on alert to jump in if she needed help. But every time the ‘Copters came down, they gave me the ol’ “there’s the idiot mother who is going to let her child drown” glare.
I could just imagine them up in their condo at night. Maw Maw ‘Copter saying something to Mama ‘Copter like, “Can you believe they let that child in that pool without floaties?” and Mama ‘Copter saying something like, “I would never.” To which, Paw Paw ‘Copter would simply say, “Idiots. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children.” Daddy ‘Copter would agree and furrow his eyebrows as he said quietly, “I just don’t want to have to see something tragic this week.”
God, I hate all of you, ‘Copter Family! (Except Bubble Child.)
Or maybe they said nothing at all and really didn’t care if I let poor Ellen drown, but in my (arguably crazy) mind, they were shaming me up and down like it was their job. So every time they would arrive with Bubble Child and their arsenal of child-size flotation devices, I would jump back in the pool and hover over poor Ellen (or make my husband Frank do this), so they wouldn’t have to worry themselves sick about witnessing some tragedy this week. We certainly wouldn’t want to ruin their vacation.
Ellen was like, “Go away, Mommy, I can do it myself.” I know, sweet Ellen, but we have to overcompensate now to prove to these people we don’t know and who we will never see again that Mommy is not bad. Don’t you get this, kid? It’s how it works.
I think we could have lost our “reputation” if the “pool incident” had been the only one, but alas, our bad parenting didn’t end in the deep end.
Rain forced us to a movie theater about 20 miles away one day. On the way home, I noticed Anders had started fidgeting around in the backseat about a couple of miles before we got back to the condo.
I said, “What are you doing? Did you take your seat belt off?” He said no and pulled up the strap to show me he was still safely harnessed in. I couldn’t see his whole body because he had a blanket we had taken to the movies over him. But everything looked OK, so I carried on blabbing about something.
Frank pulled up to the front of the condo unit to let all of us out under the awning since it was still raining. We all got out, except for Anders, who suddenly began screaming like a boa constrictor was killing him, because in a way it was.
Somehow, he had slyly unbuckled the seatbelt and wrapped the shoulder and lap belt around him in some sort of Houdini fashion. I still can’t figure out how he managed to do it. And now that he was struggling to get out of it, the tension of the belt was tightening up more and more and squeezing him enough to leave marks on his stomach.
We tried to pull it apart enough to let him slip out of it, hoping to not have to cut the belt. We even took all of his clothes off, trying to give him more wiggle room, all while he is still screaming. But it just wasn’t moving. Frank finally had the good sense to drive us down into the back of the parking lot out from in front of the building. But I couldn’t let go of the belt because it would have tightened up more on him.
So as Frank drove slowly through the parking lot, I walked with the back door open, trying to calm my screaming, totally naked kid who was somehow tangled up in a seat belt.
We made quite the scene, as several families walked by and looked quite puzzled. After we realized our rescue mission was going to be futile, I went upstairs to get the scissors. He was soon freed from captivity, clothed and let back into the wild.
Luckily, I don’t think the ‘Copter family was one of the ones who witnessed our latest family spectacle. But in my crazy head, I could just see one of the other families who did see it, sitting around the pool later that night, casually discussing what they had seen in the parking lot earlier that day.
One nice mom would say, “Gosh, I hope that little boy is OK. I wonder how that could have happened.”
The ‘Copters would look smugly and knowingly at each other as they added extra levels of inflatables to Bubble Child.
“I’m not surprised. They almost let their daughter drown out here the other day,” Paw Paw ‘Copter would chime in, shaking his head from side to side. “Those poor kids. It’s sad really.”
Yep, it is. And Paw Paw takes the gold.