Parenting Tips We Can Take From Tonya Harding’s Mom

Yeah, I am talking to you, Goopville moms, and the rest of you American mothers that think you know how to raise the next Olympian.

You moms, who smugly watch from the sidelines with stars in your eyes as your child makes a lay-up, hits a home-run or does an impressive floor routine at the gymnastics competition. You think you are so smart with your private lessons and your purchases of one-arm sleeves, $350 bats, and $200 LeBrons.  But at the end of the day, will your child go the distance? Will he or she become an Olympian?

Probably not.

This is what I was thinking of when I was watching the movie “I, Tonya,” this week, which showcases Tonya Harding’s rise to the Olympics despite a tough childhood with an abusive mother. While most were thinking “Poor Tanya, had a horrible mother!” I was thinking of ways that I felt inferior to Mrs. Harding’s parenting skills.

While this might not be the most popular reaction from the “I Tonya” movie, somehow I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my children as I watched Tanya’s brandy drinking, cigarette smoking, cursing mother. She really knew how to make it happen…even though it wasn’t pretty.

While of course, I am not endorsing abuse, I just can’t help but notice some of the methods to her madness. And by the way..before you click out of this because you are thinking “she’s endorsing abuse,” isn’t making your kid play in two premier soccer leagues until he tears his little 9-year-old ACL a special type of Goopville abuse?? Just sayin…

Also, it is duly noted that in the end, the child grew up to be an overweight, insane criminal that wore scrunciis…but still.

The fact remains she was the first woman to ever do a triple axel jump in competition and was once one of the top ice skaters in the world.

How did that happen?

All anyone cares about in Goopville, is getting their child to the next level. Getting them to that upper level of competition, whether it’s baseball, gymnastics or snowboarding, it is no longer enough to get some exercise and have fun.  Your child has to be on track to becoming the best in the world, or at the very least earning some sort of scholarship.

Parents spend thousands of dollars on AAU leagues, equipment, and private lessons in an effort to get their child where they NEED to be in the world. Yet anyone who knows anything – knows that none of this will matter if the child doesn’t have natural born talent and/or a passion for what it is they are doing.

So of course, as a Goopville mother, I was watching “I, Tonya,” with an eye out for clues for how a trailer park mother cultivated a champion. I was with a friend, and I whispered “I’m going to blog about this! She’s a great mother!” early in the film.  Later, when the mom threw a steak knife that landed into the muscled flesh of Tonya’s bicep, my friend leaned over and whispered back “I don’t think you should blog about how great of a mom she is.”

Today, in a world, where every move we make with our children is very calculated in an attempt to find the success and notoriety they deserve, let us take a close look at how it was done in the olden days.

Tanya Harding Mother Tip #1 –She spent every penny she had on ice skating.

Well, we all have that covered.  But Tonya’s mom didn’t spend on stupid bullshit like we do.  When the skating coach let her know that her scores were clearly suffering due to her homemade outfits and suggested that she spent thousands on fancy get-ups she told her “no.” Would we do that? Probably not.

The fact remains, no matter what is said about Tonya Harding’s mother, she lived in a trailer and worked three jobs to pay for her daughter’s ice skating lessons and ice time.  In typical fashion, the child grew up to tell her she hated her and appreciated nothing.  Let’s expect the same, as doting, over-indulgent modern-day mothers.

Also, she turned out to be a whining cry-baby. Let’s remember this too when we swipe our credit card at Dick’s Sporting Goods to the tune of $500 next week.

tonya cry


Tonya Harding Mother Tip #2 –She didn’t make friends with the other skate moms.

I mean how luxurious. This woman just went to the ice rink and didn’t speak to anyone and drank her brandy out of a thermos. When they asked her to not swear in front of the children she called the mom a “C U next Tuesday.”  She stood off to the side, alone, only consulting with her child. Wouldn’t life be so great if we didn’t all feel like our children’s sporting events or interests meant nothing to us in terms of socializing?  I for one, enjoy wearing sunglasses and reading US Weekly at my children’s events, so of course, this warms my heart.



Tonya Harding Mother Tip #3 –She didn’t subscribe to the fashion and equipment standards.

I have been told that both of my children need new bats this season because their old $200 bats are “illegal.” The new “legal” bats are $350. Both of my children “need” them to succeed in baseball.  I, being an asshole Goopville mother, will purchase these “required” bats. Will my children get drafted to the Yankees one day as a result? Probably not.

Allison Janney said it best about the woman she portrayed in the film, Tonya’s mother believed that “she shouldn’t have to have a fur coat to be a figure skater. She doesn’t have to have a perfect family to be able to compete in the Olympics.”  What if we all felt that way? What if we said “I am not buying a $350 bat or a $300 dance recital costume.”  Would our children still succeed? Could they still hit a home run with the $100 bat? Could they still dance their heart out in a regular old leotard? Probably, yes.

Tonya Harding Mother Tip #4 –She drank and smoked.

Granted it was the 70’s and 80’s…but doesn’t it seem luxurious to think of watching your child’s horrible performances and practices a little intoxicated? This woman drank brandy every day in her coffee all day long. She smoked cigarettes on the ice despite the fact that it was a non-smoking facility. While the other mothers probably sat tensely, completely sober for years watching their little ice princesses, this woman was enjoying a fuzzy, warm, brandy-filled life.  That seems smart to me.  I mean just admit how jealous you would all be if I showed up with a martini in my hand to the next baseball game and just sat fabulously not giving a fuck on the sidelines.



Tonya Harding Mother Tip #5 –She didn’t care if her child liked her.

This is something we all struggle with. We work, we let our kids have iPhones, we let them play video games, we don’t always cook dinner or feed them organic chicken….the reasons for our guilt are endless. As a result, we are most guilty of wanting our kids to like us. We are guilty of trying to be their friends. We care about their feelings…likely to a fault. How great would it be if we could just tell them to shut the fuck up and stop complaining?



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