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When mom is a poor sport, everyone loses

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Over Spring Break, our family traveled to the capital of Colorado’s left coast and my hometown, Grand Junction.

One of the biggest attractions in the region is a family fun center called Bananas. It has a mini golf course, go-carts, a huge enclosed pavilion packed with bounce houses and slides, batting cages, an arcade, laser tag, and a snack bar. Because Grand Junction doesn’t boast Denver-levels of things to do, we always visit Bananas when we visit.

The kids get windblown, sticky, drenched, and dizzy from go-cart fumes. In other words, they have a blast. Usually, I stand back, watch, snap photos, and fret about injuries. This time, I was inspired to join in more of the fun.

“Inspired to join in more of the fun” is one way to translate the phrase “I am not pregnant during a visit to Bananas.” Our previous visit in July? Pregnant. Before that? Pregnant. Before that? Pregnant.

It wasn’t particularly warm when 9 of us climbed into the colorfully bobbing bumper boats. Temperatures were in the upper 60s with a slight breeze. The baby stayed ashore with my mom. Our toddler rode in my husband’s boat. Our preschooler tagged along with our oldest son. The other 4 kids and I had our own boats.

I envisioned zipping around the large pool, bumping into the kids, maybe squirting them with my water cannon. Good times, happy smiles, lotsa laughs, this not-being-pregnant-at-Bananas thing is awesome!

I motored out into the open water.

I didn’t know I was a tender, succulent medallion of medium rare tenderloin.

I didn’t know my children were wolves.

I felt a stream of water hit my side. And then another stream hit the back of my head. Another hit my face. With slight panic and disbelief, I realized my children had completely surrounded me. On every side, they blasted and cackled as I screamed. The water was cold, the wind blew, and there was little room for escape. I was so wet, I couldn’t see as I powered my little boat out of the ambush to the far side of the pool. Mistake! Mistake! Mistake! My offspring, the people I bore and tenderly rocked at 3am and endured Alvin and The Chipmunks for followed me.

I begged them to leave me alone. I couldn’t believe my folly. Of course kids would seize the opportunity to Drench Mama when it was presented to them. If I was going to join in their game, I was going to be an equal.

I don’t expect them to go easy on me when we play UNO or Mario Kart or Apples to Apples. I don’t let them win, either. But for some reason, I expected a 3-hour cruise.

This time, I got the shipwreck. The tiny ship was tossed.

I’m sorry to say I wasn’t a very good sport.

They cornered me. I invoked my authority and loudly snarled STOP IT NOW! Through sheets of water running down my face, I saw them turn away. It was less about mercy and more about remembering I’m the one who decides bedtime and is nice enough to buy Macaroni and Cheese in cartoon shapes on occasion.

I was no fun. No fun at all.

My bumper boat carried my shivering body back to the edge of the pool. I grabbed a rope, clipped it to the boat, and hoisted myself onto dry land. The kids continued assaulting each other with chlorinated water. My husband and toddler stopped shortly after me. They were mostly dry.

I stood in the sun to dry off, feeling ashamed.

If one of the kids had a meltdown because they were sent to jail (do not pass Go), I’d send them away from the Monopoly board. If they flung a controller down because Toad launched a Koopa shell at their Kart, I’d announce the end of the race.

Be a good sport! It’s one of life’s many lessons. Nobody likes poor sports, but our society seems to have a rather large contingency of those types.

On that drippy day at Bananas, I remembered how awful it feels to be a winner at losing. Maybe it will give me more sympathy when my kids express frustration at their own defeats. There’s a graceful way to handle life’s trompings, but it’s not always easy to muster.

Now hand me a towel.

Author: gretchen

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 12, 2011

    Sigh, we’ve all been there, done that. I had the exact same thing happen at Disneyland because it was so stinkin’ crowded and hot. But funny thing–when my attitude changed, theirs did, too.

    Had to LOL re: your pregnancy comment. 😉

  • comment avatar Jenny - Sugar Loco April 12, 2011

    good for you for recognizing your attitude! I know I can be the same way…what mama wants wet hair? HA!

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  • comment avatar JoAnn April 12, 2011

    I admit, I had to chuckle at your description of the attack. It sounds like something my siblings and I would have done. Ha.

    I also admit that when I was a child, we may or may not have convinced my mom to go down one of the homemade sledding tracks we made in the pasture. She couldn’t wear her glasses, so the poor thing had no idea we’d tricked her into going down the hard one, rather than the easy one she’d requested. (We’d made two: one “easy” one, which was exciting, but no ramps, and one with massive ramps.)

    Watching her fly into the air was amazingly fun, and we had to stifle our laughter. It was all fun until we saw her land, and then we thought she was going to kill us.

    Instead, she limped over to us, a bedraggled mess, snow in her hair and all over her back, and said, “You kids be careful! If that’s the easy run, I don’t want you to hurt yourselves on the hard one!!”


  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz April 12, 2011

    Great takeaway, Gretchen. I think I would have responded similarly, but not done as much soul-searching as you did. Kudos to you.

    Funny scene — sorry!

  • comment avatar Nicole (@NicoleLJ) April 12, 2011

    Love this!

    It’s hard to be on the other side – but so good for us. One time – after I had my 3rd and was in a really tired, grumpy end-of-rope time – I buckled the kids into the car, griping and nagging all the way. Then, as I climbed in, my gum fell out of my mouth, bounced off the seat and hit the floor. I was so in “Mom” mode that I immediately thought “Ack, Kid!! You should be more careful! You can’t have gum unless it stays in your mouth! I don’t have time to clean up your messes!” Eventually I caught on that it was MY gum from MY mouth and that dropping it was a total accident. I always remember that and use it to remind myself that my kids are little people who make mistakes and deserve to be treated kindly. It’s really easy to correct from our pedestal and forget that we;re all just humans 🙂

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 12, 2011

    JoAnn–Best. Story. Ever.

  • comment avatar Gretchen White April 12, 2011

    JoAnn—agreed with Amber. That is truly hysterical.

    Does your mom know the full story now?

  • comment avatar JoAnn April 12, 2011

    Gretchen, we were too mortified to tell her. I’m not sure if any of my siblings ever spilled the beans. I would say that what she doesn’t know wouldn’t hurt her, but I’d have to say that in this case what she didn’t know didn’t cause her any *lasting* damage… Ha!

    We were terrible, terrible children.

  • comment avatar Emily April 16, 2011

    Love this article! It’s always humbling to be put on level with our children and realize–we struggle, too! Such a great reminder to me. Thanks.

  • comment avatar Shayne April 18, 2011

    I can ABSOLUTELY see myself reacting the same way, but, like Lori, don’t think I would have reached the same level of introspection as you did — one thing I’ve always admired about you! This is one of many good reminders I’ve had lately about trying to see things through the eyes of my children. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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