We all want our kids to be more advanced, most brilliant, and climbing the charts at the speed of light. When our babies are little, we want to be the mom of the child who stands first, takes their first steps early, talks in complete sentences by age 1, and sleeps through the night before 3 months old. We beam with pride when the doctor tells us that our child in the 90th percentile in his growth, as if we or our baby had any control over that. When they are a little older, we brag about their exotic tastes – how they can eat duck pate and goat cheese salad like a little tiny adult. We nod knowingly when the teacher tells us that little Johnny is in the advanced reading group, or that little Susie is the classroom helper the teacher can depend on. And we are sure that our child is on their way to becoming a genius, obviously smarter than the average kid, and surely going to be a doctor or a lawyer when they grow up – because mediocrity is way beneath them. They are the best soccer player on the field. They run faster than all of their friends. They are reading War and Peace when the neighbor kid is only on the 42nd book of Junie B. Jones. And let’s face it, our kid IS brilliant, and VERY advanced for their age. Yes, we should be proud of them, and we should sing their praises.
I admit it, I too got swept into this ridiculousness.
Potty training. Anyone going through this horrendous milestone? You sit your child on the potty, nothing happens. You let them up, they crap on the floor. You buy them the prettiest panties or the coolest superhero underwear, and encourage them not to have an accident in them. And they hold it in – until you go out in public and are fresh out of diaper wipes and any change of clothes. I’ve been there. And the reason I was there was because my sister-in-law, aka supermom, had all of her kids out of diapers and walking to the toilet by 13 months. 13 months! Who does that? Me, that’s who! Or at least, that was my intention. Unfortunately, that was not my daughter’s intention. She was perfectly fond of sitting in her own excrement, having the convenience of a toilet right in her own pants. And who was I to get in the way of that? But the competitive mom in me wanted my child to be potty trained early. We were going to win, dang it! So we tried sticker charts. We tried bribes. We tried begging and pleading. And wouldn’t you know it, my little darling was way more stubborn than I was.
Poopy Pantsed Toddler 1, Crazy Mom 0.
Competition is rampant among parents. New moms will brag about how their child is already rolling over, smugly sympathetic to their fellow moms who have their baby just laying their like a sack of potatoes. “Don’t worry, I’m sure nothing is wrong with your baby, even if they aren’t rolling over…yet.” You are in the middle of bragging about your child’s first word being “Daddy” at 6 months, when your friend comments that their 4 month old is already baby-signing that they need a bottle of milk and that their diaper is feeling a little tight. It doesn’t just end there. School-aged kids sit in the hall while their parent reads the teacher the riot act for giving their Einstein a D, even though they’ve refused to do any homework during the year. Refs at the soccer game are reamed out for actually giving a kid a yellow card, even though Pele Jr. just got done elbowing some kid in the jaw. And if you believe any parent of an elementary school musician that their Christmas performance sounded like going to the symphony, I have a bridge to sell you in Arizona.
Thankfully, most of us really do grow out of believing our children are the Mecca to society. When they hit a certain age, suddenly they’re not so adorable anymore. Their feet actually do stink. They are capable of struggling in school and need our help to continue, as their knowledge isn’t instinctive. They really aren’t the best and fastest member of their sports team. Truth is, they aren’t the most brilliant, the most adorable, and they aren’t superior to other kids. They’re actually quite normal. But it’s when we appreciate them in their normalcy that makes our pride in them that much more meaningful. They aren’t the very best, and we’re still proud of them. I love my mediocre kids, how about you?
Have you experienced competition from other parents of kids your child’s age?
No. Not yet, anyway. But I do get a bit perplexed by what I see as weaknesses my kids possess -not that I fault them, of course- that I didn’t. For instance, my oldest son is a terrible speller, and can’t seem to form complete sentences with proper grammar and punctuation…while speaking. Whereas I was quoting Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” by age nine. However, I was raised in the sticks with little access to electronic media. My idea of prime time entertainment were the latest issue of Batman and “The Adventures of Encyclopedia Brown.” But my son reads, alot. He watches his share of TV, but so did I, when there was television or movies available. I practically grew up in the local cineplexes of my youth, actually.
My oldest son, however, is no english professor. He is, on the other hand, a MATH WHIZ. Loves it, really. I HATED math, still do. Sometimes -and this is probably because most of the numbers I contend with indicate how broke I am- math STILL gives me migraines. When I was trying to decipher middle-school algebra, the headaches were much worse. My youngest son is autistic. I like to think he’s smarter than all of us, he just can’t tell us how much. He comes with small, but great, victories, a post all his own.
Maddie is still an infant, and this is where my long-winded post starts to make sense; See, her mother is caught up in aaallll the silliness you describe (she’s barely 11 months old and walking). Myself? I know better. I love my daughter, and my sons, but they’re gonna have to walk a long way to be geniuses. For real. And you know what? Makes me love em’ more…. PEACE 🙂
Awww! That is seriously one of the sweetest love notes I’ve read from a father about his children. There is something so sweet and real when we take off the rose-colored glasses, and still have hearts that break over our children.