A new subculture: Stage Moms and Ranting Parents

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Over-involved parents: You’ve seen them before. They’re the ones sitting with their makeup done too perfectly at PTA meetings, being a little too enthusiastic or critical at Little League games, and scrutinizing their kid’s report card just a little bit too hard. They’re those parents. They’re out there in society, on the prowl for the best education, clothes, iPod, and pony for their children.

We cannot just sweep all of these parents into one big category labeled “Stage Mom,” though — today’s overactive parent is more than the hairspray-wielding former pageant queen we all love to hate. This modern-day subculture has evolved to include overeager parents of various forms and degrees. Behold the categories of the modern Stage Mom — and keep in mind that these are all extreme versions of parents, and any mother, father, or stepparent can be any combination of them.

The PTA Mom. The PTA mom is part involved parent, part businesswoman after her prime, and part aspiring pseudo-school administrator. She calls and presides over all the important meetings, but it’s more complicated than that.

Remember the monthly one-hour meetings your mother used to attend in the elementary school cafeteria? Those days are gone. What was formerly a mere one-hour commitment has turned into an all-consuming job for the PTA Mom. There are general meetings, board meetings, executive board meetings, and officer meetings, along with conventions, luncheons, socials with staff, and committee meetings — the whole nine yards.

These PTA moms live the American Dream, the 2.2 beautiful children, the husband who takes care of the finances, and the prestige of holding the ultimate position of mommy power.

The Ranting Parent. The ranting parent’s favorite thing to do, as the name suggests, is rant about his or her child. A conversation with this overbearing parent will frequently start out like so:

“Timmy has so much going on for him! I mean, he’s involved in so much at school, and he has so many responsibilities! He’s on the soccer team, he plays trumpet, he attends marching band rehearsals, he’s in two honors classes, he goes to football games, he does homework, he has to sleep, he has to eat, he has to blink… I mean, kids have so much going on nowadays!” (Puts hand to heart.) “I couldn’t imagine balancing all of these things when I was his age!”

The ranting parent, as demonstrated above, loves to exaggerate. This mother or father may not know the specifics of what’s going on in his or her child’s life, but loves nonetheless to point out how incredibly busy he or she is, and swell with a sense of unrequited pride when that child faithfully executes all the aspects of his or her supposedly busy existence.

Ranting parents also possess the amazing ability to rant without saying a word. We’ve all seen the minivan with about 20 “My Child is an Honor Student” stickers cascaded across the back windshield — just in case it wasn’t clear enough already how special their child truly is.

The Omnipresent Parent. This parent is everywhere! Community bake sale — they’re there! Fundraiser for the dance team — they’re there! 5K Run (or one-mile Fun Run — we’re not all super-athletic) — they’re there! Boring band competition with three sleepy judges in the audience — that’s right, he or she is the fourth audience member. While their commitment is to be applauded, their omnipresence is unnerving.

The Vicarious Parent. The vicarious parent often spins elegant rhetoric of what they should have done in their “glory” days, and pass all that enthusiasm and ambition on to their child to carry out. The goal of the vicarious parent, to use a hackneyed phrase, is to raise an “overachiever” progeny and be with that progeny every step of the way as his or her child punts, glides, plays, dances, or sings to the top. His or her child’s touchdown is the parent's touchdown. His or her child’s sappy Good Citizenship Award is the parent's own Good Citizenship Award.

Some vicarious parents may even take music or sports lessons with their child; it’s not too far of a stretch. The vicarious parent fails to recognize that Mommy-and-Me gymnastics or Daddy-and-Me swimming lessons may be cute if the child is three, but not once that child grows up. The child’s beautiful dreams may not align with your beautiful dreams. Sorry.

All of these parents are not necessarily “bad” parents, nor do they become bad parents if they exhibit such characteristics. Parenting is hard in this day and age, and the line between “good” parenting and “Stage Mom” parenting is getting more and more vague. As the difference between pushing a child and pushing him or her too hard is increasingly difficult to distinguish, good parenting is hard to define.

Perhaps Chris Rock puts it best: “Good parenting is keeping your daughter off the pole.” At least that much, the majority of parents have done.