No, that didn't really happen.
But maybe it should have.
Last night, we went to my nephew's high school basketball game. It's slightly important to note that I'm a public school teacher, and am very pro-public school education...in spite of all its issues and flaws. My sister's boys, on the other hand, have attended the same private Christian school since they were in kindergarten. For years, she and I have half-teasingly gone back and forth about the merits of each. Our ongoing joke is that the people from "her" private school are a bit more "clean-cut" (read: less delinquent and more refined) than the ones who attend "my" public schools.
Apparently, that rule does not apply to some of the parents of the athletes. 'Cause sitting two rows behind me, that woman (think: Rosie O'Donnell sans make up and censors)...well, refined she was not.
Both teams were pretty aggressive, and it was an exciting game. The few people in the bleachers (it's a very small school) were pretty vocal: cheering, stomping, complaining about calls made and calls missed. The aforementioned mother? Um, yeah, vocal. Offensive vocal. And considering the size of the crowd, there was no chance she'd blend in.
When the handful (and I do mean, handful) of parents from the visiting team would clap or stomp during a foul shot, she would taunt: "What are you? Horses? There goes the stampede! The horses are stomping, everyone! As if it's gonna make a difference!" When a kid from the opposing team was fouled out and benched, she chanted: "Left, right, left, right, left...that's right! Sit down!" as he walked off the court. When a boy from our team unnecessarily fouled an opposing player so hard that the kid slammed into the floor, she shouted: "C'mon! Man up! What are you guys? A bunch of babies?" She punctuated every shot with an "In your face!" and then, as if all of this were not enough, she suggested singing "Hava Nagila" (we were playing a Jewish school). This was just too much.
I wanted desperately to stand up, turn around, and yell right back at her: "Shut the fuck up, you ignorant, prejudiced, crass idiot. These are kids, for God's sake!"
I didn't. I wanted to. But I didn't. Had that been my kid on the court, had that been my son's school, had I had any connection to this woman at all other than sitting in the same auditorium with her, I would have said something. But this was not my place. (And truth be told, as big and vulgar as she was, I'm pretty sure Hubby would've had to step in to keep her from pummeling me into the shiny hardcourt.)
My sister and I chuckled a bit: "Guess you can pay for private school, but you can't buy class."
I just kept thinking: Isn't this supposed to be a Christian school? I realize the type of school doesn't matter at all, and that this kind of stuff happens all the time on the sidelines of every youth sport, no matter the age or location, but...
I mean, mugging someone is bad, but mugging someone while sitting inside a church has gotta be worse, no?
I know this scenario is not uncommon. I've heard about these stories. Hubby grew up playing sports, so I've even heard first-hand accounts. But to witness this in person was painful. Ben just started his second season of soccer, and after attending two of his big cousin's games, has started asking about basketball. We know there is a very good chance we will spend countless hours of the coming years on the sidelines, cheering, clapping, stomping, and supporting. I realized last night that in spite of how impulsive, big-mouthed, and "passionate" I can be, I will never be that mother.
People are always talking about today's youth: disrespectful, undisciplined, and entitled. It's not MTV that's making them that way. It's not the Internet or movies or the media. It's parents like that.
I understand that parenting is difficult, that we make mistakes, that it's sometimes hard to realize how negative some of our behaviors can be when witnessed by our children. But this is not about parenting, really. It's not about childhood development or disciplining strategies. And it's not about sports. It applies to driving, to standing in line at the grocery store, to working alongside someone in a cubicle.
This is about kindness, plain and simple. I've realized that if I teach my children nothing else except kindness and consideration towards others, then I will have succeeded as a parent.
And how are Ben and Aidan Kai going to learn this? Yes, we will talk. We will have many conversations. Questions, answers, wondering, teaching. Like last night when he asked why his cousin's teammate had knocked down the other kid. I had to explain: "When you play sports, you play strong, but you play fair. And that wasn't right. It doesn't matter whose team he is on." But more than through our words, our sons will learn by watching...watching us, our behaviors, our actions. Everyday.
So I think of my future on the sidelines...and I think of that mother. And I worry. I worry not that I will be the one yelling obscenities or spewing meanness, but that I will not be able to control myself when someone else does on my kid's sideline. I worry that I will, in fact, turn to that lunatic and curse and yell and curse some more. And then my kid will see that, too. And isn't that a gray area? Where does one draw the line between mature restraint and a necessary verbal kick in the ass? And then isn't that a life lesson, too?