Guest Post: Louise of Baby Gates Down, on Not Becoming THAT Parent

photo credit: Pixco 0.45X Wide Converter - 20mm via photopin (license)
photo credit: Pixco 0.45X Wide Converter – 20mm via photopin (license)

Today is Day 1 of the A to Z Challenge. And that’s not an April Fool’s joke.

CD az challengeA is for Adults today on the CD. To kick off the month-long challenge to cover all 26 letters by the end of April, I’ve brought in a pinch hitter. Please welcome Louise, of Baby Gates Down blog. She’s a fantastic Canadian blogger and mother of two. She’s been a friend of the CD for more than a year, first chiming in on a 6 words post, then regaling us with tales of life as the mother of kids leaving toddlerdom.

Her writing is snappy and fresh, and she’s among the very best commenters ever (as well as a regular 6 words contributor). Check out this link to learn why her blog is called Baby Gates Down in the first place. I won’t ruin the story.

I’m happy to finally have Louise guest post here. She’s a blogger, like me, with roots in journalism, but for whom parenthood has colored her words more than anything. I adore her style and appreciate her words especially for the #1000speak movement.

Please welcome Louise to the CD!

photo credit: Outdoor heated pool via photopin (license)
photo credit: Outdoor heated pool via photopin (license)

As a former competitive swimmer, lifeguard and coach, I knew I would teach my kids to swim.

My daughters are now five and two years old. My eldest can swim a few metres and my youngest happily splashes about without fear.

As for the competitive part?

Sure, when they’re a bit older I’d love them to take up my sport.

swimming is a sport

I’d be thrilled to volunteer at their (still very hypothetical) future swim meets. Both my parents became actively involved as my brother and I swam. Indeed, my father still officiates at local swim meets. I love what the sport gave me and my family as I grew up.

But getting back to my kids – because that’s what being a parent is about – I mostly want them to find activities that they enjoy and that they choose.

Growing up in and around serious competitive sport was enough to instil in me a firm drive to never become that crazy sport parent.

You know the ones.

The milder ones use to sit in stands at meets competing with other parents in a way that baffled my mother – spouting their child’s times in every event at her down to the 100th of a second and then asking for our times – which my mom consistently never knew and so wasn’t able to join in that competitive parental aspect of competitive sports.

But this mild one-upmanship pales in comparison to some of the parents I remember.

The ones whose investment, drive and dedication to their child’s success knew no limits.

fly_swimI remember a mother from one of the teams we’d consistently see at provincial meets.

Until she was banned from the pool deck you couldn’t miss her.

She would storm up and down the side of the pool as her kids swam, pushing past stroke & turn judges and plowing over coaches and other onlookers to cheer her kids on by screaming her support.

Then there was the girl whose father use to wake her up an extra 45 minutes early before 6:00 am morning practices, so she could get some additional land training in.

Or the boy whose mother got interviewed for a television news piece about a recently hired coach who had faced sexual harassment allegations involving teenage girls from his previous club who somehow managed to make the focus of her interview the fact that her son might be the next Olympian.

And the girl who spent her eleventh birthday in tears because she was “aging up” and it would be harder to win everything – which her parents expected.

I also remember my parents increasing mix of amusement and frustration at the father who dominated club board meetings with ever increasingly spectacular tales of the swim triumphs of his youth – getting better and better as his kid improved so as to retroactively keep up in a fabulous example of:

The older I get,

The better I was.

Finally, there was the girl who wanted to go to her grad.

But it fell on the same night as the finals for regionals and she was seeded first going into her event.

Both her parents and coach told her she had to “take one for the team”, rather than go to the dance.

dancingShe promptly false-started, got herself disqualified, and after a delightful screaming match with the coach stormed off to the change room and after that (I’ve always hoped) to the dance to take back her night and enjoy a bit of teenage normalcy.

It’s been over 20 years since all those examples, but I clearly remember each of them. The expectations and pressures those parents were putting on their kids and the fact that this was as much about them as their children, was clear to me even then.

diving_boardI was forever grateful that my parents encouraged me and expected me to do my best, without going off the deep end in their quest to ensure our collective family awesomeness.

I vowed never to be that parent.

And while it’s still early days, and we haven’t hit competitive anything yet, I can already see where sometimes knowing when to push and when to sit back, isn’t always crystal clear.

I’ll certainly never become the parent whose kid cries when they age up or the mother that tells my child she’ll have to skip prom to prove her commitment, but I appreciate the grey zone that exists between encouraging my kid to push themselves a little harder to achieve something I know they are capable of doing, and pushing them too far.

I also work hard not to overly steer my kids just into the activities I like. Sure, they swim. But they also dance, have done music, tried soccer, and gymnastics, and we are probably signing up for tee-ball this summer.

So far, I think I’m managing to encourage rather than push.

And when I catch myself trying to drill my two-year-old on star floats or pushing her just a bit too hard to try swimming with the floaties on her own, I have the memory of swim parents past to pull me back in line.

What about you? Any memories of unforgettable sports parents? Any advice for the incoming generation of sports parents?

Photo credits: The “Swimming is a Sport” quote was found on Pinterest and links to the source. All other photos are courtesy of The woman swimming fly is by arztsamui, the dancers are courtesy of Stuart Miles and the diving board is by tungphoto.

play quote


  1. Lyn says:

    Wasn’t allowed to play sports when I was a kid because I had a heart murmur. My mother sent a note to the principal telling her I was too “delicate.” This same “delicate” girl rode bikes, climbed trees, and wrestled the boys into submission. And to think–I could have been an Olympic wrestler…or tree climber πŸ™‚

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Have you ever blogged about your rough-and-tumble girlhood? That’s awesome, and goes to prove delicate is only for washing machine settings.

      Grace wrestled a neighbor boy to the carpet, face down, and his mom implored him to “use his words!” to get out of the fix.

      The word “uncle” came to mind.

    2. Louise says:

      I like to think that we figure out ways to do what we’re suppose to do even in these situations. So I’m certainly cheering on the vision of “delicate” you wrestling and tree climbing!

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Lyn is definitely one of the #kickassgirls

  2. It is truly so hard to walk that fine line, but I agree that we have to do our best for kids not to cross over it. Wonderful guest post and happy to see Louise here today.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I think some parents wouldn’t have noticed they crossed the line because they’re seeing red for all the screaming.

      1. Louise says:

        I certainly remember these parents. I have to wonder if you get to that point if you really care how your behaviour comes across. I use to see the kids faces and wonder how the parents didn’t see the negative impacts – but they just didn’t.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Parents have the ability to support our kids in anything they pursue – and we have the capacity also to squelch any love they have for those things. Which will we choose?

    2. Louise says:

      Five years into parenting I worry I don’t push my kids enough sometimes – but then I see them figuring things out on their own, or suddenly improving in great leaps at something and remember that they are suppose to be the ones achieving all this, not me. But yeah – during the struggling parts, it’s hard to remember. That hasn’t really transferred to sports yet for me, but I know it’s a role that’ll take effort. Thanks for the comment Janine!

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I have a philosophy of guided discovery – in that when the kids figure things out, with our help, the lesson means much more.

  3. Louise says:

    Thanks again very much for the chance to guest post and the kind words up front! And I love the quote you found for the end. Agreed 100%!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That quote felt perfect. Thanks so much for being here today!

  4. Life comes first!
    And by “life” I mean those parts of life that are fun.

    Of course, no pain – no gain, and a healthy dose of ambition, endurance, team spirit and sportsmanship are important, but as soon as it gets grimly determined, people should take a look in the mirror.

    1. Louise says:

      To this day when I hear “No pain; no gain” I still tag “No Spain” on the end in my mind. How’s that for sports-dating myself?

      I certainly agree with this though – competitive sports teach a lot of incredibly valuable skills – drive, healthy competition, dealing with losing, being gracious when you win, the fact that most things worth achieving take work and commitment, that hard work generally pays off …. all that stuff. But there’s a limit to the pressure/work that can be endured and done. Sometimes kids just aren’t going to win and setting your kid up to think that’s the end of the world? Yeah – a bit of self-reflection is in order in those cases.

      Yes! Life comes first! And a healthy balance is so very important.

      1. No Spain, hahaha!
        Us Swiss folks feel like No Germany, but of course that won’t rhyme πŸ˜‰
        Here’s to a healthy balance!

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Easy on Spain! It’s okay to make fun of heritages outside of my own, though. In moderation, of course.

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        We can learn about a healthy balance from our kids. You can’t tell after an 8-0 soccer game for Elise’s team whether they’ve won or lost, because they’re back to life, either way.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      No matter how far sports takes you, it should always, at its core, be the game you loved as a kid.

      1. Louise says:

        “No pain; no gain; no Spain” was a tag line on numerous sports shirts prior to the ’94 Olympics. Ie: Don’t work hard, no Olympics for you. Sorry if that came off wrong w/o context!

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        No offense taken! Just kidding around

      3. Louise says:

        Oh good! Momentary worry when I read it πŸ™‚ I hear Spain is lovely. I am to visit one day.

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        It’s tough to offend me even with anti-cheeseburger rhetoric.

      5. Louise says:

        I’m confused. Team Lactose Intolerant and Vegan Nation notwithstanding, who could EVER be anti cheeseburgers?

      6. Eli Pacheco says:

        No, I’m just saying, I don’t offended easily!

  5. Kim says:

    Love it. I remember those kinds of swim parents… It always made me glad that my dad was there, cheering silently while volunteering as an official. No screaming, though. Phew! πŸ™‚

    1. Louise says:

      Hear, hear! The kids of that mother who use to race up and down the deck with them. I remember the looks of pure embarrassment at times from her daughter – who I think was too polite to tell her mom to stop, but obviously didn’t miss the looks she got from everyone around her. Pride in your kids is awesome. Getting banned from the pool deck generally means you’ve taken it a bit too far…. πŸ˜‰

      My parents were certainly quieter supporters, I knew they were there, and that worked just fine for me too.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Is it evil to ask Jesus to trip one of those parents just once so they fall in the pool?

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m noisier in church than I am at my girls’ soccer games, Kim!

      1. Louise says:

        Oooh – “falling” in the pool – I have a wondrous memory of one of the most serious senior (and “mean”) coaches on deck getting pushed into the water on a dare by one of the swimmers at a rather senior meet. Not quite “Jesus” tripping him, but kinda comparably karmic.

  6. NotAPunkRocker says:

    M’s ex-girlfriend, who he was with for two years, had a baseball prodigy younger brother. Everything centered around his games. They were still young enough that her parents chaperoned their “dates”, which normally consisted of them going to and from various travel league games. Her birthday fell on the day of a big game…and guess which took priority? Sad, really.

    1. Louise says:

      High end competitive sports really do take over your life. I remember when I quit competitive swimming at 15. In the same amount of time I got a job, joined the school band, took up guitar, still swam and played water polo for my school at a more recreational level, coached the school team, and saw my grades go up a good 10 per cent. You have to hit the point where you need to decide – where the kid needs to decide – if it’s worth it and what they really want. If they do – and they really have that chance to be exceptional – then go for it. But understanding, and being okay with what is being given up in exchange, is important. It really needs to be the athlete who wants it. Chasing that dream requires a lot of sacrifice, so the athlete needs to make sure its THEIR dream.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        My girls play only one sport – so the offseason is for their other passions, which also includes laying around, resting, watching Netflix and getting on each others’ nerves.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      They should have just let them have a pass that day … we’ve played tournament games on our birthdays, but we also make sure we celebrate, win or lose. (we usually win when we play on our birthdays!)

  7. Nicola Young says:

    Urgh competitive parents, I can’t bear it. I like to encourage my kids to find their ‘thing’ and to do that they have to try lots of activities. My eldest is into gymnastics, of her own choosing. I was hoping she would enjoy dance because I did, but my middle daughter seems to be in to that, along with drama. It’s hard not to steer them they way you want them to go, but you have to let them find their own way don’t you?

    1. Louise says:

      Agreed Nicola! I’m trying hard to do the same. I often wonder if my eldest might like drama. We’ve gone to a few plays already and tried some community theatre shows which include kid actors so I could gauge her interest – I think it’s not there yet – so I’ll see again a bit later and she can try a number of other things in the meantime. She decided on ballet recently, rather than hip hop. She does swimming and likes it and we’ll try a different sport this summer. I think she’s starting to show some preferences, but we’re still early on, so I’ll keep trying to find a variety of activities for now to see where interests lie. As for my youngest, I think we’ll find a music class or maybe an art class for her soon as those seem to be a solid interest from her…. I mostly like watching and trying to figure out where their interests lie.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        and then one day, the pipe up and say they want to try something new.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Competition is good for a kid – a parent screaming at them at every move is the opposite of good.

  8. laurie27wsmith says:

    Hi Louise, love the post. I never participated in anything other than schoolyard sport growing up. One thing I did like and that was swimming. Nothing competitive though. My only claim to fame is I met Mark Spitz out here in Oz, I was going for my Bronze Medallion in Lifesaving at a pool he owned, and he was there paying a visit.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I think Mark Spitz wrote on his blog, “my biggest claim to fame is that I met Laurence Smith once out in Oz … “

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        Now that’s funny Mate. I think he would have been more impressed with the rather attractive female police officer I was ‘rescuing’ at the time.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        You’re like a superhero, mate.

      3. laurie27wsmith says:

        Without the mask and cape, mate.

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        But with the underpants outside your pants, right?

      5. laurie27wsmith says:

        Always Mate, always!

    2. Louise says:

      Thanks so much! And I’m in awe of being one email connection away from you who have met Mark Spitz. Very cool.

      Also vaguely wondering now if you became a lifeguard after achieving Bronze Med. So many fond memories there…. Thanks for the comment!

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        Hi Louise, Mark’s a nice bloke. My wife at the time wasn’t impressed when I told her though. I didn’t get an autograph and he was her fave sports star. I had to get the bronze medallion to complete my police course. Thankfully I never has to use it. πŸ™‚

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      She’s the bomb, isn’t she?

      1. LOL Definitely. πŸ˜€

    2. Louise says:

      Ah! Brenda – I love you too. You bring a little bit of needed magic to the world!

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