They say we shouldn’t live vicariously through our children. I say, it’s inevitable, harmless fun.
I’m not saying we should lose ourselves. It’s important to have a room and a life of one's own. But anyone who has ever said we don’t live through our children has never seen a group of mothers cheering their kids at a sporting event.
Some people are better disguised than others. (Or perhaps better adjusted.)
At a track and field event at York this weekend, I realized I was wearing my competitive heart on my middle-aged sleeve. When my daughter’s race began, I stopped the friendly chat I was having and stood at the edge of the track to wait for her to run past me.
As she came around the bend she planted her foot expertly on the inside track to pass another athlete. I unleashed a holy horror of a cheer as she sprinted to the finish line. I turned back to the bleachers and saw a few dozen stunned spectators. You would have thought I was watching the olympics.
“Sorry,” I muttered to the group as they rubbed their wounded ears.
What can I say? When any of my children tries hard, I feel proud. Is it possible I wonder if one of my good genes may be lurking in the map of their skills?
Sometimes I dream of what could have been had I competed in high school. I know I am not alone in this department.
Chatting with a couple of my closest friends while our daughters ran, we shared our stories.
“I remember,” said my friend with a dreamy look in her eyes, “back in high school I got a note in my locker from the coach who saw me doing hurdles in gym class. I’ll never forget it. It said, 'You should try out for track and field,' ” she said, her eyes glazed over with memories. “Man! I was so proud of that!”
“Something to put on your resume,” joked our other friend, as a shot sounded the beginning of a new race.
After the meet, my daughter and I needed the healing powers of a trip to the mall. It was there that I realized my vicarious thrills were not limited to sports. They extended to fashion and crushes too.
“You have my permission to date Zac Efron,” I casually notified my daughter while we browsed handbags and wallets at Carson’s. “He is SO cute!”
“Ok, Mom. Thanks,” she responded, as she focused on her search for the perfect purse.
Wandering through the bags I found a shoulder bag with a giant peace sign on it. I have been trying to push peace signs on both my daughters for years. I don’t know why, but I love them. At home, peace necklaces, earrings and T-shirts stay hidden in drawers, ashamed to make appearances at school.
But when I saw a khaki green satchel with a giant pink peace sign on the front, I couldn’t resist. I stared into space and imagined myself, I mean my daughter, passing the peace through the halls of York High School.
“What do you think?” I asked my daughter with hopes that her eyes would light up.
Trying to disguise her true feelings, she mustered a gentle, “Mmmm, yeah! Great,” and went back to scrutinizing more suitable attire.
But I could see right through to the back of her chestnut-maned head.
“Oh no!” I said. “I recognize that look! That’s the same look I gave Grandma or my aunt when they pointed at purses like this one,” I said, holding up a shiny sequined ballooned bag with heavy gold studs on the strap.
I knew in that instant that my time had passed. We both studied the bag and laughed. I suddenly felt a great honor was being passed from those women, through me, to my daughter.
I ended the shopping trip by buying a shirt with colorful pink accents. My daughter didn’t find what she was looking for. Her standards tend to run higher than mine.
This is my kid’s turn to shine, and she probably doesn’t need any help from me as I cheer. But I will get up off the bleachers and scream louder than anyone in the stadium. I’m still Italian for goodness sake.
Acknowledging that I wanted a hand in my kid’s success seemed to take the edge off the shame of it. Who doesn’t want to feel they played some part in the passing of the baton to the new generation? I hope my mom and my aunt realize they have had a hand in it too. Where would I be without their good intentions? It takes a village to raise a mom.
The next day, rejuvenated by our weekend, I headed to the gym. It was no surprise when I pulled my favorite T-shirt out of my drawer, the one with the giant pastel peace sign on it.
As I ran around the track I could see my form in the tragically located floor-to-ceiling mirrors that reflected the truth as I jogged.
“Is that what I really look like?” I thought to myself as I turned pink in the face.
Running outdoors, it’s easy to pretend I am the image of my lithe, muscular daughter. The truth hurt. I tried not to wince as I caught the reflection of an aging mother bouncing along, trying to get her heart pumping.
There were lumps, there were bumps and it was not pretty. But as I planted my foot on the outside track coming around the corner I had hope.
I have a few laps inside of me yet. I may not pass many people anymore.
But at least I passed the peace.