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Hands-Off Moms Still Care

Photograph by Twenty20

Whether it's the loud father cheering and coaching his kid from the soccer sidelines or the mom who "coordinates" the science fair project, many parents are very involved in their kids' activities these days. But what about the other parents, those who aren't as closely involved but are still rooting for their kid?

I have always been the mom in the back of the room, staying in the shadows when it comes to my kids' accomplishments. It is more my nature to stand back and support in quiet ways. But does that mean I don't care as much? Obviously not.

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My daughter decided that she wanted to try a new sport this past year and joined the track team during the spring of her junior year. Her sport of choice? Pole vault. I admired her determination and willingness to try something so different and new to her. But as much as I wanted to see her practicing or competing, I also wanted her to have her space. This was her thing.

One weekday when she had a meet at a school about 15 minutes away, I decided at the last minute to drive over to the meet after work to watch. After wandering the track area for a while I finally saw the pole vault pit. As I was standing in the distance I saw her compete and clear the pole for her first time in competition. It was a moment I won't forget—and one that I almost missed. But seeing how excited she was and all the high-fives from her teammates also made me feel glad that she had these moments without me. A few minutes later she texted me her news and I told her to turn around. We had a good laugh about that one.

I have always been incredibly proud of my kids and their accomplishments, but their accomplishments aren't mine.

But when I shared my excitement later on Facebook, another track mom commented that she never sees me at the meets. And suddenly the excitement from catching a glimpse into my daughter's life faded. Instead I felt failure.

There have been other times when my stand-in-the-back parenting hasn't stood up to those in the front. There was the award my daughter won through a library writing contest that we almost missed because she didn't really want to attend the ceremony. Or the middle school science fair projects that I obviously didn't have any input in. I tried to leave Boy Scout meetings and committees to parents who felt more comfortable in front, while I chose to help with quieter jobs in the background.

While we attended almost every single soccer game from the time my daughter was 4 years old until she was 16, we weren't the loudest cheering section or the weekend coaching-from-the-sidelines parents. I don't think I even announced on Facebook which college my son chose, back when he was knee-deep in all those things. I have always been incredibly proud of my kids and their accomplishments, but their accomplishments aren't mine.

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Is there really only one way we should support our children's activities? I say we need as many moms and dads in the shadows as we do on the sidelines. Whether you are the loudest mom at the lacrosse game or the quiet one at Cub Scout meetings, we're all supporting our kids. Shouldn't we support each other as members of our kids' community? I think so.

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