The other night, another mom and I were talking about our weekend plans. I said that I was going to an awards event because my daughter got a big award at school. She said, “Oh GODDDDD that’s AWWWFULLLL! I’m SOOOOOOO glad my kids didn’t get that award! Just so you know, they recognize all the schools in the ENTIRE COUNTY at that event and there is no parking and it’s really hard to get in and I’ve heard nothing but bad things about that.” I looked at her and quietly said, “I know exactly what to expect. She got the award last year, too.” I kept my cool but honestly, I was offended. Don’t undermine my kid’s ceremony. Considering that I didn’t invite you, your opinion is irrelevant. There is not a competitive bone in my body and therefore I have absolutely no patience for competitive parenting.
I suppose it’s possible that she was really trying to warn me about this horrific ceremony honoring my kid’s hard work. (It’s not horrific, even though she was right about the parking.) Maybe she really did have the best intentions. But it sounded to me like she was slightly jealous. Her kid doesn’t even go to the same school as mine. It’s not like my daughter took an award away from hers. There was no competition and therefore no reason for her to carry on like that. As a matter of fact, I can think of about 10 things that her daughter does with more skill than mine. But unfortunately, in my experience, competitive parenting is alive and well. And stupid.
When did we start thinking that the success of our kids makes us better people? Why are parents so starving for approval that they have to get it through their kids accomplishments? Competitive parenting won’t make you more than “just a mom.” It will only make you crazy. You want approval? Go out and work hard for something and win your own award. It’s not your kids’ job to make you feel good about yourself. Stop trying to live out your missed opportunities through them. It’s great that your son is the captain of the hockey team, but that doesn’t make you special by association.
If you feel like you’ve lost your identity, feel free to re-invent yourself. Take a class, make new friends, go skydiving…whatever.
How about Pageant Moms, Dance Moms, Gymnastics Moms, Swim Moms, etc.? Talk about competitive parenting! There is so much drama they make TV shows about it! And for what? So you have a trophy to show that your kid is better at something than the next? Who cares? Here’s a little reality check: No one outside of your family cares about your kid’s MVP trophy. Much like my daughter’s award doesn’t impress anyone but a small circle of her very close friends and family.
Sure, I’m super proud of her, and I put it on Facebook, too. However, you can bet that 9 out of 10 people who saw that post don’t care for more than the half a second it took them to hit the “like” button. And I don’t feel sad about that. Her award is not a reflection on me, my social status, or my success in life. I am not a better mother than someone whose child didn’t get one. It’s not a parenting award. It’s her award. She earned it – not me.
Does your kid being the star of the soccer team make you a better person? Nope. It makes you a person that loses sleep on Saturday mornings so you can drag him to practice. If anything, I feel sorry for you. I’m not getting up early on a Saturday unless it’s a life or death situation. I am, however, waking up in the middle of the night and frantically ordering an overpriced grass skirt from eBay (which, by the way I found at the dollar store a week later) so my kid can dress appropriately for Luau day at school. Maybe you think that’s a fate worse than death.
Your sacrifice for your kids might look different from someone else’s – perhaps you spend tens of thousands of dollars sending them all around the world to classes and national spelling bees and exclusive sports events. Maybe your sacrifice is an 80-hour work week at a minimum wage job just so that they can go to a better school. It could be that your sacrifice is holding vigil next to the hospital bed of a sick child. We all make sacrifices according to our situations.
That said, a competitive parenting lifestyle and having a child who won something doesn’t change anything about who you are inside.
No matter what you have sacrificed, you will never be better than another parent based solely on your child’s scorecard.
And your child will never be better than someone else’s just because they won an award. They may be more talented when it comes to dancing or spelling or hitting home runs, but that’s all it is. My honor student is not better than your soccer star and your soccer star isn’t better than another child with awards for horseback riding. And she isn’t any better than the kid whose mom I talked to the other night.
Parents are parents and kids are kids. Raising children to be functioning members of a screwed up society is hard work. Instead of competing with other parents, why don’t we combine our strengths for the good of everyone? All of that energy could be so much better used! It takes a village…
The root of competitive parenting is insecurity. Stop being so insecure about who you are as a parent! If you have to put down the accomplishments of other kids or push your own kids to extremes to make yourself feel like a decent parent, YOU are the one with the problem. Not the student of the year, not the soccer star, and not the spelling bee winner. Your childhood is over. Time to grow up.