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Other Parents Can Be The Most Exhausting Part Of Parenting

My son's team sports are far from child's play.

One of the most exhausting parts about parenting can be the other parents.

I mean the competitive parents. The ones who actively teach their kids that they are better than other children. We all love our kids, and think they're ah-mazing. As the 'Matilda' song goes, most children are safe in that knowledge; "My mummy says I'm a miracle."

But if you insist on teaching your little Veruka Salt that their needs and rights supercede those of any other child, and tell your little Violet Beauregarde that they're a winner and others are losers, then I'm afraid you've lost me. I'm not remotely a competitive person, which is probably the reason why I have only reached the lofty heights of mediocrity in my life, so I've never understood competitive people.

And I am especially confused by people who think, because of their wealth or talent, they are justified in their arrogance -- and they raise their kids to be the same.

I don't want to be friends with those parents. I don't want my kid to be friends with their kids. Because it can never end well. Our values are so fundamentally different, there's bound to be a clash.

Nothing has reinforced this for me more than the commencement of my son playing team sports this year. (To avoid identification of the teams, I'll refer to them as Summer and Winter sports.)

There's the oft-repeated clubhouse quote: "These are children. This is a game. The refs are volunteers. Get over it."

In Summer, I would have died watching the two hour game each week had it not been for the company of the other parents. It was not an exciting sport.

I'm fairly certain that my son was most likely the player who contributed the least to each match. I mean, I thought he looked so cute in his uniform, but beyond that...well, let's just say there were many other strong players.

He did get a bit of quiet team mate sledging when he missed unmissable balls, due to his mind being pre-occupied by compiling the list of foods he was planning to demand as soon as the match was over. I noted the reactions from the other parents, and occasionally, there was polite silence, but mostly, there were words of encouragement. I appreciated that they kept their thoughts about how the team would win when my son was rostered off, to themselves. And I know that if I told them what their sons muttered in natural frustration to my kid on the field, they would have been disappointed, as I would be if my son did that to theirs.

I can't say the same about the Winter sport.

We are very early into the season, into a sport where most of my son's team, including my son, are absolute beginners. One child, of the few that has played the sport previously, made it clear that he's disgusted to be playing with a bunch of incompetents. We all saw it from day one, in training, when he would regularly smash the ground with his equipment and tell the others off for their ineptitude. But timed carefully, so it wasn't detected by the coach, who was too busy doing an outstanding job with all the newbies.

Standing on the sidelines, we all saw it, and knew it wasn't our place to intervene. That was his parent's job. But his parent chose to soothe him, ignoring the effect of his words on his team mates, and assured him the others would improve in time.

The parent did not tell him that his un-sportsman-like behaviour was unreasonable and unkind, that the others were beginners just as he had been once, and that perhaps he could encourage them and demonstrate the skills as a team mate instead of throwing a tantrum.

And then yell at him in the car for looking like a brat and being embarrassing, as I would have done to my son.

I know that hasn't happened in privacy, because we've seen a repeat of this anger/soothing scenario every week. Although, there was a distinct difference last match, when the parent decided they'd had enough of their son being on a losing team, and started shouting at the kids from the sidelines.

I won't tell you exactly what was screamed. Put it this way -- all of us were shouting at the kids from the sidelines. But one of us was not saying "bad luck", "good effort", or "great hit!". One of us said something so rude to my son that when he came off the field, he was upset, and I saw in the second half that he seemed reluctant to get involved in the game.

I don't want that to happen -- I want him to give it a go. I want him to run around in the sunshine and breathe fresh air -- and admittedly, yes -- leave me alone so I can chat to the other parents in peace while I pretend to give a crap about the game lovingly support my angel in his pursuits. He should be having fun with his mates, learning new skills and feeling part of a team; not coming to me in tears.

Kids need to learn resilience and how to cope in a not-perfect world -- but not like this.

There's the oft-repeated clubhouse quote: "These are children. This is a game. The refs are volunteers. Get over it." And something else I can't remember, but that's all I need -- because that's all that will fit on the t-shirt I plan to print and wear to the next game. Because I'd much rather be passive-aggressive than an arrogant prick. It's just a game, after all.


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