In the world of competitive parenting I have observed so much madness, and this, coming from someone with as much baggage as I do, is no small thing.
There seems to be no end to the one up man-ship and the perpetual pissing contests. Keeping up appearances and maintaining the façade of perfection has become so important that it trumps the actual job of parenting. One of the latest trends is competing for firsts.
Why is everyone in such a rush for our kids to reach those milestones? I take almost a perverse enjoyment out of confounding these ‘one-up’ parents with my classy whit and repartee.
“Little Laura was potty trained by eighteen months!” Good for you, I say! My kid, stuck her hand down her shitty nappy and shoved it in my face while yelling “look mama, poop”.
“Darling Felix can recite the entire works of Shakespeare” – Splendid, more power to you. Mine can bust out a free-style Twinkle Little Star and Row Your Boat mash-up. Eat it Kanye!
“Felicity enjoys Camembert and pate served on the back of mermaid scales.” – Delighted to hear it, mine eats worms and boogers.
“Look at Charles is in his matching designer chinos and blazer, we sold a kidney to buy them, but doesn’t he look just darling” – Christ alive, you paid how much? Shit my kid looks like a hobo fell into a fancy dress bucket at a charity store.
“Well obviously we enrolled Chelsea in Ballet class at two, one has to get ahead of these things.” Say what now? Mine grabs a pole and grinds up and down on that bad boy like her college education depends on it. *whispers* Don’t lose that skill kid, you may need it later.
To be fair, I consider it a win if my kid is covered in food, dirt, markers and smiles at the end of the day. It’s not always a given, she is two for craps sake and a fickle little bitch at the best of times, but she hasn’t anyone to impress but herself as far as I’m concerned. She’s water-proof and won’t melt if she gets covered in crap. A bath at the end of the day for a job well done is reward enough. Like her, clothes will wash and if they stain, shit happens. Wrapping your kid in a bubble of perfection and ridiculous standards is going to make for a miserable kid and an ulcer for you.
I’ve seen these poor kids at the park, restaurants and supermarkets, dressed to perfection, and utterly terrified of getting grubby and ruining their clothes. The looks of sadness and longing as they watch other kids tearing around like hooligans all covered in dirt, scuffed shoes, holes in the knees and having a ball. The poor parents who are convinced the kid has to look the part to make it in the world, hovering around with a wet wipe and some disinfectant for the germs are not helping. Christ, let’s all lighten up a tad shall we.
I’m not saying that they shouldn’t teach our kids respect for property, to be nice each other, to try, or that personal hygiene is optional, but can we stop using them to compete with each other and feel superior when your kid can take a crap on the toilet before someone else’s. It just makes you look like a dick.
It doesn’t stop there sadly, another shocking trend is to shame parents too. We have regressed back to high school. It wasn’t cool then and it sure as shit ain’t now.
You’re screwed if you work because you missing the most important years of your kids life. You are not active enough on the PTA, your thank you gifts (this one still wigs me out) or bake sale donation are store bought, clearly you’re not invested in your child’s future. You are selfish for choosing your career over you kid. Bla bla bla.
If you don’t work then clearly you’re setting back feminism decades. You clearly have the time to make gifts and are then hated by those who don’t or you bought them and are scorned because you should have made them. You’re belittled by the working parents who are jealous or scornful and made to feel like you settled for less or inadequate because you are stay at home parent.
Is your kid signed up at ‘The’ school? Did you breast feed? Is that organic? Do you work? Is your kid exposed to (the dreaded) screen time? Do you use your smart device around your child? Do you drink or smoke? The list is utterly endless. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Nothing is off limits any more. Are you pregnant or fat? Should you be eating that? Bottle feeding? Did you even try the breast? The answer to all of these questions is it’s none of your bloody business. I’m not saying don’t take pride in our loin fruit, or to stop caring about others, but unless you see a kid in very real danger, keep your opinion to yourself. They’ll not thank you for it, like you would not thank them for theirs. Don’t try to mask it as ‘friendly’ advice, because if it wasn’t solicited all you are doing is making someone feel bad about themselves and question their own judgement.
Kids don’t give a crap about what designer clothes they are wearing, you do. Go watch a group of small kids play and listen to how often the subject of fine dining is discussed or if they were breast feed. We train our kids to become what we think society wants. Sure we want them to be better than us, but can we just let them be kids for a while? Can we stop dressing and training them to be mini adults, and can we please not judge the mother who’s kid turned up at school looking like a reject from a Bjork video. Probably of all the battles she fought before eight am, this was the one she choose to let her kid win in exchange for getting them to eat breakfast.
It’s easy to laugh, and we are all guilty of it, but you’ll never know the whole story, so have a quick think to your own “perfect” life and stop making others feel like crap so you can feel superior. And please stop beating yourself up trying to keep up with the rest. If you get a genuine hug and fat booger encrusted kiss at the end of the day, you’ve done just fine.
I’ll hang out with the happy, worm eating, cross dressing toddlers and their slightly relieved parents any day of the week. I have wine.
(This post first ran on George with Ears.)
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