Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Laudable and Lamentable Part Three

Mothers, get both “Laudable and Lamentable”, what a mixed bag we parents are. When does the supportive parent cross the line from laudable to the lamentable mother? Do we even know that our behavior is sometimes seen by others to be “over the top”?


This past month, whilst traveling in England, I attended a Highland Dancing competition in one of the oldest cities in England, Colchester. This ancient city, which traces its history back 2,000 years and the honor of being first British Roman capital. The events of the day will be for another article. However upon arrival at Lower Castle Park I realized that this could be my local highland competition in the US or in Canada and probably in Australia, NZ or even Scotland.

Eileen and Mhairi Reynolds at the Colchester Competition

The common denominators were all there; the children, the costuming, the all-important judge and platform and yes the mums and dads. The accents and dialects may be different from Highland mums and dads throughout the Highland-dancing world but no matter the country there was mum making sure the hair and costuming was correct, dad inevitably setting up the chairs and covering from the elements for their dancer. How many times has the “ouch” been heard as the hair was pulled just a little bit too hard to make sure the “style” was acceptable and secure.

How many mums put up with little sleep the night before making sure everyone was up in time to make the early morning competition; how many miles driven to give their dancer the opportunity to compete? The conversations as to what the dancer needs this week, new ghillies, shorten the Aboyne outfit, lengthen the aboyne outfit, will the budget stretch to the new kilt and extra lessons? Yes! Highland parents deserve a “laudable “ mention for without the mums and dads of Highland competition there would be no need for platforms, organizations and judges.


As with all things the “lamentable” has to be directed at the Highland mum as well.They are those few who have made this competitive art form into an all consuming venture.

Recently I received an e-mail describing the “lamentable Highland parent”. The “Alpha Mother” we have all met her. Alpha Mother is not just a highland phenomenon you can meet her in cheerleading, soccer, and baseball anywhere where a child is in a competitive situation. Alpha Mother takes “top dog” in the studio. She makes herself available and indispensable to the teacher or coach. Alpha Mother guards her territory and teacher, as one reader put it “like the family jewels”. Another reader referred to the syndrome “ as kind of like in a herd where the lead mare bosses all the rest of the herd around.... including the teacher. If the "Alpha Mother" decides she does not like someone, watch out She is usually a very strong personality who can terrify the teacher. She may have oodles of money to boot and some Alpha Mothers pay for the teacher's expenses to various competitions So then the teacher becomes doubly beholden to Alpha Mother and her likes and dislikes.”

Enter “Beta Mum” into the studio, her child is extremely talented and a threat to the “winning successes” of the Alpha Mother’s offspring.Alpha Mother does what she can to interfere.In the words of a studio parent “Alpha Mother became the teacher’s right hand person, who did her books for her, fed her, did all her entries, etc for her and practically nursed her, began a campaign to diescredit Beta Mum.Beta Mum began to get upset phone calls from the teacher. Why did you do this, why did you do that? It seemed like Beta Mum could do nothing right! Beta Mum wondered what she had done to deserve this. After quite a while, she finally figured out it was Alpha Mother at work! Alpha Mother would even go so far as to get Teacher to call Beta Mum and tell her not to go-to-go such and such competition ensuring the lack of competition to Alpha Mothers offspring!”

Far fetched, no unfortunately we have all met this type of mum and it is truly “lamentable”. What turns a seemingly normal well adjusted parent into the Alpha Mother, who not only makes life miserable for those around her but usually for her own child?

There is a fine line, mums are putting a lot of time an effort into their child, and your child is your whole focus. You have to explain to Dad WHY it is important to spend the family’s disposable income on a hotel and sit in a field in the heat, cold or rain or in a cramped hall so your child can compete most weekends.

You have to explain your child’s behavior, lack of practice to the teacher, why did they do this or that at competition. You want to give your child the edge, he/she needs that new outfit, maybe then the judge will look at him/her and see the truly remarkable child they are. Your focus becomes narrowed into that little part of life the “competition”, the success of your offspring will reflect on you BUT the lack of success may also reflect on you the parent and your parenting skills!

To be continued…

As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at

Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.