We can’t all be winners

Pumpkin wears a dog hat almost every day from November through April. We bought it in Chinatown nearly five years ago, and when the weather chills, every year since, the hat takes near permanent residence on her head daily. Whether she’s inside, outside, sometimes even when she sleeps, that black and white spotted hat is nestled snugly on her noggin.

It’s a joke almost – that damn hat.

You see, part of me hates that hat. I hate that when she wears it, it’s hard to see her beautiful face – and oh, how I love that face. I hate that it tangles her hair and creates a near perpetual state of bedhead.

But part of me loves that I can pick my girl out in a crowd almost anywhere – just look for the hat. It’s her signature – she’s known for it. I also love the fact that she totally doesn’t care if other kids might think it’s weird that she’s always wearing the hat. She loves the hat, and could care less if anyone else likes it or not.

I kind of admire that about her, her individuality – how she marches to the beat of her own drummer. How she embraces weird, embraces herself. She’s so true to herself, that sometimes I think to myself that I want to be my ten year old when I grow up.

Yesterday she had a school competition. She was excited, nervous. I was apprehensive – I’ve never been to one of these before. I’ve been to tons of gymnastics competitions, so I know what to expect, but this was an academic thing, and I had no idea how it all would go.

We spent the morning racing around doing last minute shopping for the competition – a pit stop that ended up irritating me as I wasn’t expecting to have to do anything in the morning other than wake up and attend. The other moms had been talking about all of the things they had purchased for their kids to bring, and though my daughter’s plan was to bring things from her own collection to trade (because you can’t just have a competition, you also have to have a swap meet), when she mentioned that, the look that crossed the other moms’ faces indicated that wasn’t quite how things were done.

Fine. To the dollar store we went.

To the event we went.

Hurry hurry hurry. Wait wait wait.

The kids have been working really hard for months, so I was eager to see them shine. Eager to see Pumpkin shine. But we arrived at 10:30 and their first competition wasn’t until 1 and essentially we started out immediately with waiting – which is how we spent the bulk of the day. In total, despite needing to be there for hours, the actual performance for the kids was less than a half hour.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

(I am not a patient person)

We sat in a loud cafeteria filled which kids and their parents. Our team, with a later performance time, showed up late enough that the majority of tables were already filled and we tucked away in a dim corner. Dim. Loud. Waiting. Just kids and their moms sitting around the table. For hours.

I tried.

I’m not good at social but I tried. I had two books tucked in my purse – I’d honestly been hoping to read. I’d hoped that we’d be sitting in an auditorium, a gym, and that like gymnastics – when I wasn’t watching my daughter I could bury my face in a book.

That’s not the way this works.

Admittedly, it was frustrating – all the waiting. (Because if I’m being totally honest? I think it’s crappy to have kids – and their parents! – sit around all day. They could have better harnessed that downtime for the kids – maybe setting up some craft stations, reading corners, and the like – could have better occupied children filled with nervous energy far more than just sitting around a table ever could – and it could have relieved some of the parental pressure to be social).


Well, it was clear the other team moms were far closer and friendlier than me.. That’s fine, I guess – they’ve been doing this a few years. But I didn’t know what to expect. They’re lovely and friendly and social and fine… but I was overwhelmed with the noise and the dim and the kids everywhere. I just wanted to tune out.

It’s not because I don’t care.

It’s not because I’m a bad mom.

But it’s because well… that’s just not the kind of mom I am.

I suck at small talk. I suck at making friends with the other moms. Yeah, I’m nice enough, but I know that I come across as aloof and even stand offish. When I don’t hang around at practices, I know it may seem like I don’t care – I do – but I also have a limited amount of free time. If my presence isn’t required at a practice, I’m going to use that time for a sanity saving workout rather than just watching over the coach’s shoulder.

I’m not the mom who knows what to say to all the other kids – or even one who enjoys hanging out with hundreds of strangers’ children in a crowded cafeteria.

I don’t expect people are interested in me or what I have to say solely because our kids share a hobby. And that’s okay, for the most part.

And so.

The kids did their thing. They rocked it. Pumpkin wanted to leave to attend a dance with Princess and their dad rather than stay and wait for awards. Considering that when she found out her competition and the dance were on the same day, she was about ready to quit her team rather than miss her dance, I felt okay with the compromise. Would it have been nice for her to stay and see how the team did? Yes. Did I understand why she made the choice she did? Yes. I wasn’t about to tell her not to go to a father-daughter dance with her dad. That’s an important tradition for them.

But, I realize how it may have looked to the team.

And then I saw the pictures on Facebook. And I felt left out. I could see the parents socializing and I felt outside that circle. I recently heard a podcast that said that when we feel judgmental, it has more to do with our own self than the person we are judging – so while my inclination was: Well, they just have more free time than I do and I don’t want to spend all my time at school making friends with other moms, the reality is: I felt left out.

I know I suck at the school mom game. I’m friends with several people who have kids in my daughters’ school – but I’m not the super involved mom and I probably never will be. I care tremendously what my children do. I want to support them and cheer them on. I’ll probably never coach their stuff and the front desk staff at their schools will probably always smugly ask for my ID when I arrive and then say (as they tend to), “Well, we don’t see YOU much around here.”

I’m… not that kind of mom.

I’m an introvert and to add to that – most of these social situations are challenging for me anyway with my stupid malfunctioning eyes and ears. Most people don’t know that – I certainly don’t wear a sign on my shirt letting people know that if I don’t respond when you ask me a question it may well be because I don’t hear you or see you out of the corner of my eye. Yesterday’s environment felt so challenging to me, that I was really tremendously overwhelmed internally that I didn’t have anything left to give externally – I was just trying not to cry.

So it was a perfect storm of emotion to later see pictures on Facebook of the team and knowing that myself and my daughter weren’t there. To know that no one had let us know how they’d done really made me feel outside the circle. I want to be angry at them but I can’t because it’s not really anything they did – it’s realizing that who I am doesn’t always fit in the circle… and probably never will.

And that’s okay. I have a life outside of the school. I have great friendships and relationships. I know that I am going through tough stuff and I have to be forgiving of myself. I know that I don’t have what it takes to go along just to get along and that, too, makes me seem abrasive and difficult to know and sometimes like.

At one point last night I thought to myself – maybe we can move. Maybe I can start over.

Then I realized: I’ll still be who I am. I will always be who I am. No matter if I fit, or if anyone else likes it. I can’t be anyone other than myself.

And that’s when I realized that I may be more like my daughter than I think.

All I’m missing is a dog hat.


About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.

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