By Debby Shulman
GIRLilla Warfare’s own Tales from the Front … stories, emails and Starbucks gossip from readers nationwide, and they leave us breathless. As always, it’s our job to bring you the lowdown, so keep the cards and letters coming!
Disguised as HOMECOMING 2013, Shark Week is shaping up to be an unexpected drama of unimaginable characters. We have a whole new series of ‘Dance Moms’ that have begun to wreak havoc on what should be an exiting time for our high school-aged teens. Sad but true, some of these women haven’t left junior high themselves and are micromanaging their sons’ and daughters’ lives to the point of no return.
In the past, we have focused on Girl Drama, but Boy Drama is just as prevalent in the world of helicoptering.
We all know these Alpha Moms – the ones who have stage-managed their son’s lives with busy play dates (ONLY with athletes), boy/girl parties in 4th grade, and a wardrobe of Nike, Adidas and Fitch.
They station themselves outside of the junior high on Friday afternoons, big SUV with the motor gunning, waiting to scoop up the harem when they bound out of school. Promises of pizza, sport court action and R-rated movies garner the ‘popular’ group into the SUV, windows down and laughing loudly. Alpha Mom loves having everyone else watch her slowly pull out of the school parking lot; she is making up for lost time when she wanted to be in that car. Her sunglasses carelessly at the end of her nose, she wants everyone to see her laughing at the prepubescent antics going on in the back of her car.
Let me assure you – they are discussing farts, poop, and who got in trouble that day. She’s not listening in on the next cure for cancer.
Like most of you, when the kids finally go off to high school, that’s the time to finally take a breath. They are old enough to make their own plans, they can figure out more for themselves and thankfully, choose their own friends.
Homecoming — particularly for high school freshmen in Suburbia — has brought an onslaught of crazy behavior, with boys asking dates during the summer months and Dance Moms killing each other in their rush to form ‘the group’, rent the party bus, and plan a series of unnecessary and expensive after-party activities.
In their deep-rooted insecurity, the Dance Moms leave latecomers feeling guilty they didn’t know better. No room for anyone else in that ‘group,’ they relish advising those poor, rational Moms (who actually let their sons do their own thing) as to where they might find a group to join.
In other words, they secure their group of popular children and lock it up.
Having three kids spanning high school and college, sadly, I have seen this happen year after year. It’s as if these Moms wish to portray an “exclusivity” that they perceive is coveted by those who didn’t get in. Poor Dance Moms … we are watching you and thinking an afternoon with Dr. Phil might just be what you need.
Take an Alpha Mom and put her in high school and she becomes a whirlwind of a Helicopter Mom.
The transition is scary to watch and while many of us are repulsed by the social micromanagement, the exclusion and the self-deprecating behavior, the irony is that THEY DON’T SEE IT. There’s no magic mirror on the wall that is going to reveal what they have morphed into, and for those of us on the outside, they continue to serve as a reminder of what we never want to be.
What happened to letting the kids figure it out? What happened to just going to the dance and having fun? It has become a circus of events and I truly believe the parents are to blame.
There’s a weird competition thing about the whole Homecoming extravaganza and it’s JUST A HIGH SCHOOL DANCE!! One mother described it to me as a wedding; formal gatherings for photos, followed by the dance, then dinner at a beautiful restaurant continued on at a venue such as Whirly Ball, moving on to an after-party house, concluding with YET another house that is the ‘sleepover’ house and finally one more home that is the after-evening brunch house.
I’m dizzy right now. I haven’t been to that many places in one day since I had to go from Bed, Bath and Beyond to Staples to CVS when the middle-one left for college. And the kids? They are clueless because Alpha Mom planned and executed Every Single Event.
I am guilty of many things – but I drove my kids to dances once or twice, I have flatly refused to pay for a professional make-up artist, and my boys wore each others’ hand-me-downs. We took pictures in each other’s living rooms and yes, a few times there was a party bus or limo and I am totally fine with that.
What killed me was leaving kids out, having to scramble for a GROUP.
There is no room for that – if we want to raise kind, warm and good boys, WE send the message that everyone is welcome, everyone is included, and we can break up that Alpha Mom group into 2-3 groups if it means everyone gets to come along. And isn’t that exactly what the Alpha Mom is incapable of doing? She WANTS to be the head cheerleader, the captain, the QUEEN BEE. And that, dear readers, is exactly the girl I left behind the minute I left junior high.
Alpha Mom needs to be put out on the back porch for the cat to lick up.
To all my rational Moms Out There … Stand Strong. Do what YOU know is right and try not to get sucked into the drama that surrounds Homecoming.
Having the strength and conviction to point out that toxic behavior to your teens will make them aware of how not to behave. Approaching the Dance Mom in your best effort to get included will leave you filled with regret and remorse. There is an overabundance of testosterone running through her veins, and YOU ARE NOT WHAT SHE IS LOOKING FOR.
Most importantly, be brave enough to say to your kids: This is YOUR dance. Make your plans, include everyone, and do not feel like you have to cave to the grand festivities that have soured the entire experience. Nothing wrong with an ice cream party at someone’s house after the dance, renting a movie and letting them ground Doritos into your basement carpet. Been there, done that. Nothing made me happier.
Together we can brush the Alpha Moms to the side, hoist up our own Mom jeans, and find the serenity and confidence that we all possess but that might have been damaged a bit by the Bitch In the SUV.
Let’s leave her in our wake.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois. She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois. Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice. www.Debbyshulman.com