May 9, 2011

Understanding skating moms

This post, and the responses, struck such a chord, because boy have I been there. You just want to focus on your kid, and someone is asking you what jumps he has and who his coach is and how much he skates, and it feels like prying, if not snarking.

You just want to sit and read, and the PickaLittle ladies behind you are bragging and comparing and talking about Eva dresses. And of course, since their children don't skate with the same coach as your children, rink culture keeps you from making friends with them.

So I am going to posit a theorem, and let's work with it. The theorem is:

On average, people are nice,
I meet lots of people whose kids are skaters,
I can be friends with those people

(Caution- strong language follows)

Here are some of the things that skating culture puts in the way of this very reasonable premise, which you would not even question in any other situation.

It's hard to talk to other coach's kids Yes, it is, and bullshit rules about "soliciting" and "tampering" make parents paranoid about getting their coaches in trouble, so they form cliques based on who their coach is. So just make friends with everyone. Sit down and talk with them. If they refuse to make friends for some bullshit reason of coaching relationship or skating level, then they're assholes and you can stop worrying about them.

This mom, whose kid skates with my kid, MAKES ME FUCKING INSANE Because she is completely at sea and looking for an ally. She suspects she's being fed bullshit by the coach and no one will tell her because of the gag rule, the fear of overstepping, and the fear of being thought arrogant or pushy.

I hate it when the moms brag about how fast their kids move through Maybe they just skate a lot? Maybe the moms are proud? Make it a game. How long can I talk about something unrelated to skating before this mom somehow ties it to her kid. This is a hilarious game, trust me. There are a couple of champion moms who could turn the news about Osama bin Laden into a skating analogy before you can take a breath.

Why does everyone want to know what jumps my kid has, and how much she skates, and what level she's in? Because that's what you have in common. The deep, meaningful discussions about that great story on NPR are in your future. Don't shut them out because you think the moms are being intrusive. Maybe they just aren't imaginative enough to come up with a better pick up line.

Why does everyone not want this done the way I want it done?
Because they aren't you. They have different priorities, understanding, and kids. Trust me, this is my big failing. I think I'm right. In many cases I know I'm right. That doesn't mean I get to have it my way, or that it's the only way, or the appropriate way for the situation. Reasonable people can disagree.

Rinks and schools are horrible places to be human beings. Fraught with ego and concern and kids being compared to each, which we all know is impossible. Each one is so so precious and wonderful. Honor that. The moms will come around.


  1. I don't think this is because of skating or of the rules. I think it's the individual rink. I've never seen any of this at my rink (and my rink is fairly competitive, we've got some very good skaters & coaches here). I know two girls, one who takes from Coach A and one who takes from Coach B. I also take from Coach A, and all 3 of us, plus our mothers, are best friends. I've also seen other kids, from different coaches, hang out together. I have nearly caught up to my two friends (they've been skating 4 years, me 2, and we're now working on the same jumps) but that hasn't caused any sort of rift or jealousy. I've never, ever witnessed or heard of coach changing drama, and it seems like the coaches coexist peacefully. Moms come up and compliment my mother on my skating and freely discuss how their kids don't look quite as graceful yet, but it's probably cause they're younger.

    It's the people that make the atmosphere, not the inherent snarkiness of the sport or rules.

  2. The stupid part is that I'm actually really friendly, but I'm better acquainted with the maintenance and office staff than I am with the Other Moms because I just have Zero patience for the Mompetition. It's just as bad at the school. I'd love to volunteer for the PTA, if I could be assured that I wouldn't be beleagured with endless queries about Stitch's reading group level, math scores and feigned dismay that he isn't speaking fluent Spanish and a dialect of Arabic. And then there's the mom who insinuated I was causing him psychological distress for not providing a sibling. (Because the purpose of siblings is to benefit the psyche of the firstborn. Obviously.) Can't we talk about something else? And no, he doesn't speak fluent Spanish, but he also isn't physically striking me when I tell him to not run over my feet with his scooter. True Story!

  3. Yeah, the atmosphere at our home rink is pretty toxic, but I've encountered different versions of the disease at other rinks.

  4. We have a bad situation at our rink because of a super toxic parent. Her child skates every session and this woman controls all aspects of the club. I appreciate the work she does but wish she would keep her mouth shut. (Although, I know other parents would step up and help out if she wasn't so controlling and critical!) She thinks she's an expert on everything and she can be very nasty when she talks about other skaters, coaches and parents.

    One of the reasons we chose to be members at our current club is because there was a group of active, realistic, reasonable parents. Kindred spirits. Because most people cannot tolerate this woman, none of the reasonable parents come to the rink any longer. Manners and futility prevent us from speaking up or challenging her.

    Unfortunately, the newbie, impressionable, ambitious parents see her is an example of a good skating parent and they have begun to emulate her. Once practical parents have gone off the deep end. Last week I was at the rink for the first time in months. The club room was intolerable! Won't be back again soon. Thank goodness spring has arrived, so I can walk the neighborhood instead of sitting in the club room. Occasionally another reasonable parent will join me.

  5. When I was a kid, my club started giving out the "Best Sport" award on a yearly basis. Maybe you could have the "Best Parent" award. It might get a few parents to behave better.

    Otherwise, you should get a copy of "Parents Behaving Badly" - I have no connections to author or book - but it might give you a good laugh.

  6. Jenny, you've got your tongue in your cheek, but recognition strategies are actually a great way to create a positive organizational culture. And I will definitely check out that book! (And also pass it on to St. Lidwina-see blog list, who should appreciate it even more, since she's living it now!)

  7. That book is on Kindle! Downloading now.