Dara Torres is my hero. The Olympic medalist in swimming has drawn attention to moms over 40 and what they can do. Well, to what she can do because, frankly, I get a cramp if I swim too fast. But she has come out of retirement to burn up the lanes in Beijing and her exuberance is inspiring.
In our own way, we mere mortal moms have had our own Olympic Summer Games going on here in the U.S.A. As parents know, keeping kids busy and happy in the dog days of summer can be an ordeal. And transporting a carload of kids to day camp or to the beach for a day of sun and sand without significant injuries or loss of sanity is a triumph of the will.
I believe an Olympic record was set in the carpooling kids from day camp with moms I’d never met before. With the high price of gas, our small town quickly became a lot friendlier when we realized that, using our minivan strength, we could each drive one round-trip a week instead of five. There was no time for diplomacy.
“Hi I’m Susan. These are my kids, I think they know your kids from school. Here’s my address. I’ll take Tuesdays.”
I relied on my sons to tell me which children I was responsible for on my appointed days. And the other moms were just as vague and happy. I also found out that my kids have friends named Sienna, Teal, Melody, and Jazz. There might be Olympic gold in creative child-naming. . . .
My friend and I had a good showing in the moms-build-sand-castles arena. New, bigger shovels and the artistry of plastic food containers expedited moats and turrets. The Russians (I suspect) sent over several destructive toddlers to smash the walls but we quickly distracted them with sea shells and rebuilt for a medal-worthy finish.
There was some buzz in the mom Olympic Village when two mothers took off by themselves, a move possibly never before attempted, to enjoy dinner and adult conversation in a restaurant without six trips to the bathroom and constant whining over when the food would come. And that’s just dinner with our husbands. With the kids, it would have been worse. This is not yet an official Motherhood Olympic sport, but it should be.
A bonus challenge for our family has been dreaded Potty Training event which lasts for months. It’s certainly an endurance race. With some helpful advice from a friend’s nanny, we’ve been working on a rigorous schedule with our fourth and final child. It’s rigorous for us – he doesn’t care.
We don’t use medals for rewards – instead, a complicated system of stickers (pirates and Spiderman) is used for each trip to say “hello” to the potty. More accolades are due when the toilet is approached and the position assumed.
Even after training three older ones, this three-year-old is a tricky one who doesn’t want to give up his babyhood. He’ll go with the nanny but he won’t go with me.
Several lesser-known, but still somewhat shocking, happenings included the procurement of DVDs just for the kids, an extended bedtime “because we’re on vacation,” and extra ice cream.
The closing ceremony of the Mom Olympics was the Mentos and Diet Coke demonstration on the back lawn. The children had seen the two guys on YouTube dropping Mentos mints by the roll into two-litre bottles of Diet Coke to see the resulting chemistry erupt into the air, but they couldn’t believe their moms set it up for them just for fun.
So Dara Torres, we may not be Olympic-level athletes, but if you keep representing moms with enthusiasm, commitment and joy, we’ll keep cheering for you.
– Susan Konig is author of I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family.