Like 37 million American viewers last Wednesday night, I sat transfixed as I watched the previously unknown figure of Sarah Palin turn herself into the angel of the Republican party. But the burning issue in my mind was: what is a hockey mom? OK: I am British, and I've never touched an ice hockey stick. But as a New York mother, I don't believe the subject has ever come up at the school gates. After all, our offspring are just five. They're still learning to skate. Still, after listening to Palin, the reality that my sons, New York born and bred, might soon take up hockey hit me like a weapon of mass destruction.
"Hockey moms", according to the websites, play by different rules to "soccer moms". The latter, lucky things, get to bask in warm sunshine because their children play a sport outdoors in pleasant climates. A hockey mom, by contrast, saves on everything, including heating bills, to pay for her childrens' pursuit of an expensive sport.
There are three types. First, the X-treme hockey mom. She knows all the coaches at the colleges and the rankings. She sounds truly terrifying.
Then there is the Power Play Hockey Mom. She organises all the games, raffles and Bingo nights. She is definitely a fleece-wearer.
Then there's the "Cool-not-cold Hockey mom" -- who lets Dad drive the kids to the games while she stays in bed, sure that sleep is the most essential requirement for the household leader. Should anyone in this family want to play hockey, this is the role I will be adopting.
Obviously the hockey mom is a regional phenomenon. Few Manhattan mothers describe themselves this way -- yet it occurs to me that both the X-treme mom and her "power play" subordinate would in fact translate very well in New York. As Dr. David Anderegg, author of Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop it, describes it, "[The hockey mom] is saying something powerful: They are not covert [unlike soccer moms]: their aggression is right out front."
Well, aggressive parents is a breed overflowing in New York.
I am really startled by the number of times I am told by proud parents how smart a child is, how good-looking, how talented. So, you turn up at a school concert or play expecting to see either a young Laurence Olivier or Mozart and you watch something closer to Miss Piggy and Kermit from the Muppets.
But this is America where, regardless of reality, all offspring are prodigies. The hockey mom, particularly the X-treme hockey mom, believes this. Of course, she does. Doubt is not in her vocabulary. As Palin says, she's a pitbull in lipstick.
This article was originally published by the London Evening Standard .