There is a certain species of parent who seems to crave attention and approval from her child's coaches and teachers. Attention and approval not for her child, even, but for herself.
Have you observed this?
This afternoon at Hank's karate class, I witnessed an especially squirmy sub-type of the attention-hogging parent. I don't even know what to call it. The mom who wants validation of her mothering from the youngish male karate instructor. The mother who wants to have just-us-girls laughs with this dude about the humdrum details of her domestic existence (that's what blogging is for, duh). And this karate teacher is like, a dude's dude, but in that also-great-with-little-kids way, so I could kinda see why she thought he might want to pull up a chair in her kitchenette and listen to how totally bananas everything is at her house right now, how she's just a cute poster kitten on a tree branch Hanging In There, but he does not want to pull up that chair. He does not.
Hank and I were at the dojo early. They like the parents to hang around and watch the class, because sometimes we help hold pads and stuff. I had just come from working out, so I was already parked in a chair having my cool down, and Hank was already in his place sitting on the edge of the mat, when the second mom came in. She was all blustery and hausfrau'd, with an actual red face from blustering around. Like, everything she does is done with maximum effort and you better know it. She made a whole kabuki thing out of finding her son's index card in the little file and all the other pre-class business, talking to herself at normal conversational volume the whole time. The teacher greeted her son, and she took that as an invitation to start talking in his direction. I had not yet tuned in to her actual words, but gradually the tones of their voices made me look up from my ancient Veranda magazine.
Blustery lady was standing at the edge of the mat, and Mr. Karate was standing on the mat facing her, but looking at a spot maybe to one side of her knees. I'm not sure of this guy's age. He could be 28 or he could be 35. It was clear that he'd given her his attention for a moment and was now trying to withdraw it. She said, "As if our lives aren't crazy enough!" I don't know what this was in regards to, but she clearly hoped he'd encourage her to go on. What he did was to look over at the children coming in the door and begin to shift his attention in that direction. I knew before she spoke again that she was going to repeat herself, and she did: "AS IF OUR LIVES AREN'T CRAZY ENOUGH!" At this point I began to feel a painful embarrassment for her, sympathy for him, and just pure pleasure to already be installed in a comfortable chair for this performance. I mean, I don't think I can convey the awkwardness of this.
When she spoke in that heightened tone, he dragged his eyes back to her and made some slight noise of encouragement. She never let him speak a whole word, but took that as her cue to launch into a long brag disguised as exasperation about how her son is now part of some science olympics thing, in which he is going to study rocks. I don't know, but it involves fourteen practices. She kept repeating that, "FOURTEEN practices." The way I have just told it to you is electrifying compared to her narration.
Then, THEN, the teacher, who I know used to be a geologist before he began teaching karate, opens his mouth and says, "I'll bring in some of my nice rock samples for him..." AND SHE DOES NOT LET HIM FINISH. She talked over, sideways, and through him, on and on. All on the theme of gracious sakes, she is the busiest mother in the world! It was so rude. And so BORING. I mean, you would have faked your own death at about nine points in this monologue. And the whole time, her body language was strangely aggressive, she was leaning forward into the mat, his space, and projecting at top volume. Aggressive, but there was a little Kathy-Bates-in-Misery about her too. ODD.
And oddly transfixing. I might have let my mouth fall open a little bit. I know because I saw myself do it in the giant entire-wall mirror.
It is a delicate distinction that I'm not getting across, but her performance wasn't that of someone who just talks too damn much all the damn time, it was that she somehow needed validation from Mr. Karate for all her hard work.
Fortunately, before Mr. Karate had to gnaw his leg off to get away, enough other kids came in that her effect was diluted. I kept my eye on her the entire class. Like, seriously, I kept looking over at her to see if she was going to do something crazy.
So I'm not sure if she is a subspecies of the Attention Hogging Parent, but she might be. What has your fieldwork in this area gleaned?
I think that, from the point of view of Laura's, and now Hank's, various coaches, I probably come off as almost aloof. I think it's partly because I want to bend over backward to not get in the coach's business. I don't want them to think that I need them to be my friend, or that I want to pump them for info/praise of my child, or that my idea of my own or my child's worth is even based on their impression of my child's performance. Whew, I will tell you, the mental gymnastics I've got going on over here are exhausting. But do you know what I mean? All of this adds up to a relationship conducted in a pleasant but distant mode.
But clearly, other parents have a different approach. They're the ones buttonholing the coach the minute he appears at the pool/field/court, preventing him from attending to the group with some unnecessary story of Aunt Fanny and a Russian sleigh ride. Then they're engaging the coach's attention whenever possible during the practice, then they're trailing after him and standing by his car, complaining or fishing for compliments or just chewing the air.
Speak to me of this.