KATE: Do kids really need an audience for everything?

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It’s a common parental dilemma: should I go to my child’s school swimming carnival?

A generation ago, it wasn’t an issue. Kids swam in carnivals, ran in races, stripped skin from their  knees on asphalt netball courts without parents on the sidelines, wringing their hands.

That may be a slight exaggeration – sometimes parents would go to their kids’ sport, but often only if it was a final or there was no public transport available. My  father used to sit in the car and read the paper during my tennis matches. I never thought twice about it.

I do now, though. I think about it often. There’s a feeling these days we should be our kids’ audience – their roving cheer squad. Like groupies, we must never miss a show.

It’s tough. Full time stay-at-home parents are rare, especially once kids are at school. There’s work to be done, younger children who need naps and (not to put too fine a point on it) sometimes you’d rather clean the oven.

But how do you decide what events to attend and which to skip? In a spirt of helpfulness, I offer the following guide:

Does your child care whether you’re there or not? 

You might think she does, but question her carefully! Does she want you in the stands because your presence is affirming? Or does she want you there because you’re a source of cash for the canteen and an early lift home?  If this is the case (as it often is), save yourself the angst and wish her luck. You might be troubled about what other parents think … ‘Poor Zola. A solid 4th in the noodle race and no mummy there to post it on Facebook.’ They may do it for you, in which case, click ‘Like’.


Did your child train for the carnival? Is he a swimmer? 

If your answered yes, then you should make every effort to go. Applaud his effort, support his commitment.

But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get there. As parents, we have to pick our events. Life is busy. We can’t be at everything and I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to expect we will be. But if they love something, train for it, practice and prepare then yes –  take a sickie, apply for leave without pay, miss an episode of Escape To The Country. Just do it.

On the other hand, if he didn’t make an effort, why should you? Maybe his thing is debating, or rugby, or (God forbid) playing the recorder. Support him in what he cares about and you’ll both have a happier time.

Are you being told, ‘all the other mothers will be there’? 

Know this is not true. It just isn’t. Remember when you were 15 and you told your parents everyone was allowed to go to Jodee’s party? When you knew quite well three of your four best friends were forbidden from going anywhere near it? Same thing.

If you say, ‘What? My child never tries to guilt me into anything!’ Well, I don’t believe you.   (My) studies show 99.999978% of children say,  ‘But ALL the mothers will be at the swimming carnival! And they stay all day!’ Refer to sentence above.

What are the greatest lies you’ve told your kids? Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo discuss Mamamia’s parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.

What if he wins and I’m not there to see it? 

This will happen.  In the modern era, all children ‘win’ a ribbon that says something like, ‘I swam in a race.’

They will be awarded that ribbon even if you aren’t there. You don’t have to be an eye-witness. Kids these days are like trees, falling in the forests. Or in this case, pools.

If they do actually ‘place’ in a race, and you’re not there, think of the story they’ll have! They can embellish it as they wish, making it the most exciting race since the Aussies smashed the Americans like guitars in the 4x100m in Sydney.

Let them talk you through it, stroke by stroke, cook a special dinner, crack open a bottle of Appletize and celebrate. Kids need stories. If we’re there for everything, what’s there to tell?

Remember,  champions win whether their parents are there or not. When Pat Rafter played the Wimbledon final, his parents watched from their home in Queensland. Sure, you could argue that’s why he lost, but it’s generally agreed that ‘our Pat’ is one of the best loved and least messed up of our sporting stars.

What if she forgets to apply sunscreen? Drink enough water?

Again, entirely likely. Make sure they take water. Make sure they have sunscreen. Intensive lecturing and threats also recommended.

kate hunter
Kate Hunter. Image supplied.

Will he carry it with him into adulthood that I wasn't there? 

Maybe. But probably not. As a test, I asked my nearly thirteen year old son if he remembered whether or not I was at his Year 4 swimming carnival. He had no clue. But then, he didn't care about swimming. See Question One. His AFL matches, however, are a different story. Not only do I go, I make an effort to know what the score was at the end of each quarter (effort being the operative word).

My kid isn't a swimmer - should he skip the carnival altogether?

Contentious, but in my opinion, NO.

It's a school day. He should go, swim his races, cheer his team, eat his warm sandwich and play his part in the carnival. There will come a time when his classmates will have to cheer him in the school play or at cross country. Swings and roundabouts.

But I really love kids' sports days!

Then grab your sunscreen and go.

What do you think? Should parents attend all kids' sports events?


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