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.’