My Kid Can Beat Up Your Kid

Carla: Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a little, but really the competition between moms can bring out the worst in all of us. We asked our wise friend Cindy, who many of you will recognize from her insightful comments on various posts here at the MR, to blog for us this week. So ladies (and Dude), here she is, the fabulous Cindy:

Cindy: A couple of weeks ago I was at a suburban high school to watch my 16-year-old daughter (the cutest one out there, not to mention the best) compete for her high school at the Illinois state gymnastics meet. She was the only one from her team to qualify for state, and she qualified on beam, vault, and the all-around.

All her teammates took the day off from school to attend the event and several other parents joined them. When we arrived, I settled in next to one of the other moms and we began to scope out the competition. As one girl after another had a bad vault, or fell on floor, or missed her release move on bars, my friend and I would say, “Oh, that’s too bad,” then do a little fist-bump. What on earth kind of mother fist-bumps  after some poor girl misses her big trick at the state meet? A gym mom.

Am I ashamed? You bet. Can I change? I’m trying. Is it easy? Nope.  But I am willing to admit it because I am probably not the only one that reads The Mommy Revolution to have this dark secret. I compete against other people’s children. Angie, my daughter, is genuinely glad when others do well. She’s obviously not my biological child. But as I think about it, I realize my competitive streak didn’t start with my kids entering club sports nine years ago.

When I got Tim, my oldest, he was seven weeks old and kind of small for his age. He was born in August and I had a good friend whose son was born in May and had never missed a meal—he was burly to say the least. She started the weekly comparison of weight and height and milestones. I immediately felt inadequate. It was a competition I would never win! And, oh, how I hated it. I delighted (inside, of course) when her son was in cranky and Tim was sweet. Point for me. And I despaired when Tim still had his binky and her baby didn’t. Point for her. Then we got to elementary school. Tim had serious learning disabilities and I lost the grade-race with the other moms I knew.

That’s when we turned to other activities. Gymnastics, track, karate, football, music–I wanted my kids to be the best at something. I wanted to be best at something. I’d never been the best at anything and somehow I thought that if they were great athletes or musicians it would mean I was a great mom.

Do you like the way I’ve put this all in past tense? I’m over it now, right? I wasn’t two weeks ago at the gymnastics meet and probably will never be. This is something I struggle with all the time. I probably lack spiritual maturity and suffer from poor self-esteem. Angie asks me why I’m so competitive. I don’t know. I just am. I’m trying to be better and not put pressure on her with my evil ways. Is there any help for me? Am I alone?

Caryn: WONDERFUL post, Cindy. And oh, so totally not alone. Although I have to admit I’ve never been a competitive person at all (bear with me). I think this totally explains why I suck at all sports (that plus my total lack of any athletic ability). But seriously, in most things, I could care less if I win. Whatever. (So long as a certain former and shared boss likes me better than Carla, everything’s fine.)

And to be honest, I feel pretty secure with the awesomeness and weaknesses of my own kids that I don’t care that some kids may be smarter, cuter, better behaved, or whatever (though, to be honest, very few are). That is, until I sense someone getting competitive with ME about my kids or my mom chops. Then, my hackles go up and I want to take them DOWN.

Like when I mention some quirk about one of my kids and I get a wide-eyed bewildered response of “No. Lil’ Joe never does that!” Or when someone asks me what my son’s “score” in Accelerated Reading is. Honestly, I have no idea. I always forget to check. But when someone asks, I get annoyed enough to lie—to make up some outrageously high score. Say we’ve been invited to the White House because he’s the most Accelerated Reader in the land.

But I don’t—because I’m (as one therapist once told me) “hyper honest.” Which means, my competitive friend, Cindy, that my honesty is more hyper than yours. Game on.

Carla: Ladies, really. You should be ashamed of yourselves. If there’s one thing I know about parenting that you don’t (and I think we all know there is far more than one), it’s that good moms are never competitive.

And Caryn, honey, if you need to think he likes you better, that’s fine. He and I talk about this all the time and we think it’s really sweet how you keep trying to be like me. As we always say here at the MR, it’s good to have a dream.

Alright Revolutionaries, tell us: How do you deal with the competition between moms–the drive to have the “best” kids, the pressure to be the “best” mom? Where does this stuff come from and what can we do about it?


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15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy on March 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    This competitiveness is another one I can, personally speaking, blame on media. I see star athletes, musicians, prodigies of one kind or another and see how early they started. Then I look at my oldest (7 year old son) who does not seem to be in love with anything except TV, and think “great, I missed the window of opportunity and he will no longer have the chance to be the next Michael Phelps (drug use aside)”. Then, to perpetuate the weirdness of this thinking, I lay a helping of guilt on myself because it is, of course, my fault that I did not spend enough time with him cultivating a love of water; and…I was lazy mom and let him watch too much TV.
    I don’t know what to do about it, but for me, media is where it comes from.

    Reply

  2. Amy, thank you for making me laugh out loud three times in one quick comment. I think “The Weirdness of This Thinking” deserves its own post. Great phrase!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Bookgirl on March 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I should so not even enter this discussion, not being a mother, but I am laughing so hard at these stories. It’s refreshingly honest. And it’s GOOD. Keep the stories coming.

    (And gym moms should meet hockey moms….because their crews are armed. With sharpened skates and big sticks in a sport where brawls are cheered.)

    Reply

  4. Posted by Melissa on March 13, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I think that the question of competiveness is connected to something I’ve been noodling over the last year. How do I know if I am a good parent? We all know that we play a role in how our children turn out, but how much influence do we actually have in who and what our children are/grow up to be? Given that we are not neglectful, abusive, or have very low capacity (e.g., mental illness) and we do the “right” things most of the time, can we take credit when our children do well?

    I think the issue for me is wanting validation. I may be in a not so typical parenting situation, but I know many struggle with some of the same feelings.

    I am raising a child impacted by years of maltreatment who struggles just to get through the day. Is she amazing? Yes. Is she courageous? Yes. Do I love her unconditionally? Yes. But how do I know if I’m doing a good job? I cannot use her performance as a guide or how successful my parenting strategies are in changing her behavior. I also know that the day-to-day repetitive nurturing moments have the greatest potential for healing, but that I am unlikely to see the outcome before she is an adult. Yes, the outcome will be better than it would have been before intervention, but outside of a miracle (which I believe in) it won’t be something others would want for their children.

    To love the way that God loves me, even if I don’t see any change or experience any of the rewards related to parenting, will take Holy Spirit power. I’m asking God to change me.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Steve B. on March 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Carla, thanks for acknowledging my stigma. Cindy, thanks for your honesty about something many parents struggle with. Amy, there once was another 7 year old boy who loved nothing but TV. His name was David Letterman. Melissa, my chest hurt when I read your comments. You are doing a good job because you love your child unconditionally.

    I am painfully aware of parental competitiveness, but more so from an observational level. Here in Chicago, parents are pretty neurotic about their kids’ educations. Our daughter is in first grade at a Chicago Public School and we think she’s pretty smart. Just don’t tell this to the parents who shell out obscene amounts of money to keep their kids in private schools. Or those whose kids have tested into the “gifted programs” at select schools. I take much more pride in the fact that she loves a good joke, is a social butterfly, and truly cares about others. But make no mistake. When the academic bragging starts with the parents, I do not hesitate to mention that she has made the principal’s honor roll (straight A’s – who knew they gave letter grades in first grade?) for both grading periods this school year.

    Then she brings me back to earth. By making the principal’s honor roll, she was invited to a luncheon with the school principal. Imagine my pride as I envisioned her having an audience with the most powerful woman in the school. When I asked her how she felt about this unique honor, she replied “I wonder what we’ll eat.”

    Reply

  6. Steve: That’s exactly what I’d be wondering. Your daughter has a bright, bright future.

    Reply

  7. Posted by heartpondering on March 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I was thinking about this just today.
    Comparison is expectations + insecurity + envy rolled into one, with some other stuff in there too I’m sure.
    I love Jesus’ comment to Peter in John 21:21 when Peter asks him “what about John?” and Jesus says, “What’s it to you?” How great is Jesus here? He’s basically saying – that business is between me and John. You, Peter, focus on my business with you.
    My dad refers to the danger of “looking sideways” – nothing good comes from it, virtually ever. Instead we should be looking straight ahead where the finish line is for the race we’re running…
    Easier said than done, I know, especially for us moms. When I was pregnant with my first child, a dear friend told me that the temptation to compare begins before the baby comes. First it’s – how’s your pregnancy? How much weight did you gain? Then it’s – how was your birth? How big is your baby? How long did it take you to lose the weight? When did the baby sleep through the night? Were you able to breastfeed? And on and on. One of the best pieces of ‘new mom’ advice I ever got was to be aware of this temptation to compare and AVOID AVOID AVOID at all costs…
    I still struggle to do this much of the time.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Susan A on March 14, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Sorry – that last one was by me
    I just started a new WordPress blog with the username heartpondering and didn’t realize I was logged into as that.

    Gosh, Caryn and Carla are so much cooler than me as mommy bloggers and have their technology so much better in hand. How I wish I were more like them…

    Reply

  9. Well, not so much cooler, Susan. It look me about 4 posts to figure out how to stop showing up as “wombcaryn,” which is my username. I won’t explain why…. ; )

    Reply

  10. Posted by April's Sister on March 15, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Although I can’t speak for how it would feel to live vicariously through your children, I do know the drive that feeds my competitive side.
    I’ve been a competitive person my whole life. Perhaps part of that is the nature of being a second child. My sister and I are extremely competitive with each other in certain aspects of our lives and it is no secret to anyone.
    I find it fascinating that people see their children’s accomplishments as an extension of their own. Heck, I even do it with my sister’s children! I find myself comparing a friend’s child to my sister’s child. “What? Your child is almost four and isnt potty trained yet? MY nephew is almost completely potty trained and HE isn’t even three!” For heaven sake, I’m not even the one doing the potty training! It wasn’t even MY accomplishment, and yet, I still take pride in it. Try and figure that one out!

    Reply

  11. Posted by Bookgirl on March 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    April’s sister: I’m a proud auntie and I completely understand! And don’t get the grandparents going…..

    Reply

  12. I think the competition thing and the “pursuing interests other than motherhood” thing are related. If motherhood is our only focus, I think we’re more likely to put more energy and worry into it.
    Having my own interests makes it easier to see my children’s accomplishments/grades/etc. as THEIRS, not mine.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Robyn on March 20, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    I’m not really that competitive about my kid. I worry when other kids seem to be ahead of her (counting, ABCs, etc). But I don’t want her to be better than them. I just want her to be normal, I guess. And she is. It’s just my worry gene. But I *like* other people’s kids. Why would I want them to fail? I’m a teacher. I like ALL kids. LOL. I don’t want any of them to fail!

    Maybe when she starts sports or school or something this competitive thing will kick in?

    Reply

  14. Posted by mom2maxx on March 23, 2009 at 10:45 am

    What a relief to read these comments! I agree with Robyn. I just want my son to be normal — but to a fault! I am the queen of (so much so that I get on my own nerves) asking every parent of a young child ANYWHERE close to my son’s age (2) about what age they did this or that. I am obsessed with it! I must know, I just MUST! When did they talk? When were they potty trained? How terrible were YOUR terrible twos? Like Robyn, I’m not so obsessed with him being BETTER than anyone else (although I may do a little happy dance inside if that happens to be the case), I just want him to be equal. I guess it’s just a mom thing, huh? I just happened upon this site and I’m SO glad. Thanks!

    Reply

  15. Hi, could you please post about radical games? I wrote about X-Games..my friend told me that it’s make a bad effect to kids…do u agree with him? thanks.

    Reply

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