Oh, the wonderful world of Competition-Land—have you visited lately? It’s a special place where mothers gather, in groups of at least two or more, to do the male equivalent of the penis swing; only women don’t have penises, which makes it even more annoying and bizarre.
Today, while I sat waiting for one of my children to complete an extracurricular activity that I shall not name (to protect the privacy of the innocent), a lovely mother sat down next to me. She was unassuming at first, something I prematurely celebrated as my opportunity to not engage. Sadly, I couldn’t have been more wrong! Lovely mom began with polite dialogue, (this how it usually starts)– a bunch of pleasantries to accompany non-important chitchat (the standard mode for how Competition-Land invitations are sent). It didn’t take long, however, for me to become guarded– “She’s a professional”, I realized quickly, then I braced myself to take our trip.
Professional Lovely Mom: “You look particularly nice today.”
Me in my head: Well damn! I know I come to these practices looking a tad homeless sometimes, but, uh…, who asked you to subliminally point that out! I wanna tell Lovely Mom to “kick rocks,” but that’s not proper adult etiquette. I instead, lace my reply with a smile.
Me outloud: “Thank you. I have to attend a meeting at my son’s school right after this.”
Her: “Oh, what school does your son go to?”
Me: “He attends Such and Such High.”
Her: “Do you like it?”
Me: “Judging from a parent’s perspective, its okay. My son seems to like it though.”
Her: “Well let me tell you about the school district where I live. I love it, my kids love it, my husband loves it, my mom loves it, our dogs love it, the neighbors whose kids graduated from there 20 years ago love it………………………” Lovely mom’s list of love goes on and on!
Me in my head: Lady! Why are you telling me this? I…..Truly…… Don’t….. Care!!!!
Me outloud: Crickets. I do, however, nod with interest (I’m pretty sure I’m still wearing a smile.)
Her: So how many of your kids are in school?
Me: “Just him. I homeschool my others.” Then I run down their grade levels at her request. This takes me a minute to remember, because homeschool grade levels are fluid—but I’m definitely not getting into that methodology with her. She’s a Shark–with them it’s best to keep answers short and sweet.
Her: Oh! (She pauses) Wait. So you don’t work? It’s like an epiphany has popped into her head. She gives me a half smile and I know immediately that we’ve arrived—unfortunately Competition-Land is not sunny today— it’s cool and replete with a breeze! I don’t like it there and want to go home, but Lovely Mom isn’t done with me yet!
Her again: “Well, how good for you!” And there it is—what no visit to the Land would be whole without: the fake camaraderie, the feigned happiness, and the “I’m
not judging you,” nod. We sit in awkward silence for a few seconds– to mentally hurl onto the other a few unpleasant thoughts. Then, just like in the movies, when the superhero comes just in the knick of time, my child exits from (unsaid) activity and I am much too happily saved—until next time, that is………
I’m not sure why mothers all over the planet continue to visit this land—it’s not sunny like California, or picturesque like Maine; Each time I’ve been, its contrary, and rainy the way it is in Seattle and too damn hot, akin to Florida after May. Plus, there’s that annoying requirement to compare what we do as mothers and the accomplishments (or lack thereof) of our kids. The only problem is, there are just too many variables, too many personalities, and too many paths in life to ever declare a winner! The trip typically ends up fruitless and everyone usually leaves the same–I never get the point!
So– I’m suggesting a solution: I think life would be much better if mothers just shut the whole place down; we should all agree to stop visiting altogether and to refrain from inviting other moms there. Just imagine, if mamas everywhere banned together, we could start a revolution by implement something beautiful and new. I’m thinking, instead of Competition-Land, we could take our mom friends (and the acquaintances we meet at unsaid practices) to Switzerland, maybe. By all accounts, I hear the place is filled with lush mountains and that the air is crisp and clean. Best of all about Switzerland, though, they say you never have to pick a side! No mom judgement! No defensiveness! No hostility! No grief! Yes, I think Switzerland just might work, and next week, when I see Lovely mom, I’m going to try and take her there!