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The Mom Olympics

April 27, 2017

Written by Marykate OMalley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA


I found myself at the Reading Olympics recently. Thinking of how I would kill it if I were 10 again. Books consumed me as a child. Words fell like snow from pages and I gathered them into my hands, caught them on my tongue, tucked them into pockets and dresser drawers to savor and hold. I pictured me: freckles with 2 brown braids like I asked my mother to make, walking to the podium, stepping up to the center, right hand over my heart while our national anthem played…..

It was hot, 90-95 or so in the classroom. The parents sat about the edge of the room in desks forming a circle with the children in 2 huddles on the floor in the center. Teams from local schools competing for the prize answer of Where Exactly Does the Red Fern Grow, or Why does the Caged Bird Sing, and more importantly, What does the Caged Bird Sing?

The questions came like rapid fire to the 4th graders huddled in teams of 7.

A proctor sounding very Alex Trebek would ask:

Team A, in the book “The Lost Slipper”, why did Maude give Charlie the key? Or Team B, in the book “The Invisible Tower”, what was the password for entering the secret cave? Or Team A, for the win, in the book “Day’s Apart”, why did Emily take the apricot?

Any while I waited for answers like, “she wanted to see if he would give it to Anthony”, or “Maude thought Charlie was a lost”, or “Emily was allergic to apricots and wanted to test what would happen if she ate one”. Bad choice Emily, bad choice. Bad choices, bad consequences….

And because I never read “Benjamin Frankenstein” or “It’s Monday Again”, I began to imagine a Mom’s Olympic. You know Moms getting quizzed on Mom knowledge, the secret society that only Moms are members of, after years of experience, and learning, struggles, challenges, and mistakes to come to understand and appreciate all the Mom wisdom there is to know….

Alex Trebek began to speak….

Mom A – It’s Tuesday night. You just arrived home from little Johnny’s baseball practice. You open the fridge and remember you never made it to the store this past weekend, or yesterday. Because you were at a soccer tournament in New Jersey with Johnny. And driving him, and his sisters who play travel lacrosse, and had 2 consecutive games on the same day, all over the continental United States. Because that is what we do in America. We don’t have siestas. We are overachieving workaholics who even when it comes to our children’s activities believe more really is more. Shouldn’t every child play 2 sports per season, one a mandatory travel to help their mother further develop her organizational and multitasking skills? Alex, lowers his voice, “Mom, what do you do?”

Mom A: I run to the closest market for provisionals and prepare a simple yet respectable and well balanced meal, Mediterranean diet.

Alex – That is incorrect. Mom B?

Mom B – Breakfast for dinner: eggs 3 ways, bacon on the side, toast with butter, and if you have pie crust replace the eggs with 2 quiches, one with the spinach that you keep in the freezer for emergencies.

Alex: Mom B, that is correct. Mom A, for your next question: Your children are starting to run about the house, it is getting louder, and their energy so palpable and intense that the power grid is starting to spark with the excess of energy being conducted from your home. What do you do?

Mom A: Send them outside to play.

Alex: Correct. Now Mom B: It is well known that laundry is a large part of most mother’s lives. You tell your children to put the dirty laundry in the basket turned out the correct way. And yet when you take it out of the basket to put in the washer, it is inside out. What do you do?

Mom B: Ask them in a calm voice and reassuring voice to please remember turn their laundry out the right way and praise when they do?

Alex: Mom B, that is incorrect. Mom A?

Mom A: You ask them in a calm and reassuring voice to please remember to turn their laundry the right way out and praise them when they do. When they forget, you fold the laundry inside out and tell them in a calm reassuring voice that you are helping them remember to place it in the basket the correct way.

Alex, Mom A that is correct.  Now Mom A for the win, a 3 part question: You are at Sunday mass, it is 40 minutes in and 2 of your children (because you can’t sub divide yourself and have to strategically decide upon entering any church which 2 of the 3 you need to sit between because of either A. building tension, or B. because of too much comradery) start to elbow one another and you can tell with your super sonic Mom radar it could get heated. What is your first play? And if that doesn’t work play 2, and possibly 3?

The room falls silent. Mom A shifts in her plastic seat and wrings her hands for a moment over the child sized desk. Okay, well the first play is give them the Mom look, and pray to their guardian angels, St Gianna (your daughters Confirmation saint), the Holy Spirit to descend upon them, and all the angels and saints to come upon your children and inspire them towards loving kindness. If that doesn’t work, your second play is to move between them. And if that doesn’t work your final play is to give the most intense, most animated and dramatic version of your Mom face while mouthing “if you don’t stop, no donuts.” That should work.

Alex: Mom A, that is correct! You are the winner of the 2017 Mom Olympics! Your prize is a personal driver for you, and your entire family, to transport you and your children to their athletic, academic, musical, and artistic events.  In addition, dinner for a year, fully prepared, and served, no clean up for you and your entire family….

Nice yes, But reality is always better. And gratitude always wins. And when your children start to agitate one another 40 minutes into mass, and you pray to all the angels and saints in the heavens to intercede, you look over to see your daughters holding hands. And your son who is tearing up palm branches in long dramatic gestures, and forming ornate crosses with such intensity and speed that you think you see smoke rising from his Edward Scissorhand cross making hands… while you ponder – is this distracting to everyone around us?? .. And then the woman behind you taps you on the shoulder to ask if she can ask your son to make her one. They are so beautiful and she always wanted to make them but could never figure out how. And he turns to her and graciously hands her one, she tells you you have a beautiful family. You reply that yes you are blessed, and she agrees. Love always wins, kindness always wins, and gratitude takes first place.


strawberry Frosted donut 003


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  1. Joanne

      on April 28, 2017 7:38 am

    Beautifully articulated, once again. And once again, your writing brought tears to my eyes. Miss you!!


  2. Marykate

      on April 30, 2017 9:40 pm

    Thank you Joanne! So kind. Life is lived in moments and I feel so lucky
    I get to “taste life twice” :) love to you all! Miss you and really hope to see you soon!! Xoxo


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