Recently, a dear friend asked for my advice about a parenting dilemma. Not the Mommy Wars, this is what I’m going to call the Mommy Race (although dads are just as guilty!). It’s that moment every parent has when they feel compelled to engage in a sort of baby one-upmanship. Particularly prominent with first-time parents, an honest pride in baby’s newest milestone suddenly morphs into something a little less pure.
Been there on BOTH sides.
Look, babies and toddlers – while a lot of work – are also a wonder to behold. My friend reached out to developmental expert who I think said it best, “There’s a reason why every parent thinks their baby is a genius…because they ARE. Their minds are developing at an amazing pace and it is fascinating to witness.”
They are geniuses and, if you’re experiencing this amazing ability for the first time, it can be something you want to share with the WORLD. I remember feeling like Griffin was really, really special. He said his first sentence at 11 months! He used the word facetious when he was only 2! I just KNEW everyone would be as in awe of him as I was.
So, one some level, I think some of this comes from a really great place. We’re just so DANG proud and we want everyone to know it!
HOWEVER, there are many, many times when something else is happening completely.
Parenting is an incredibly vulnerable pursuit. Basically, we are putting our own insecurities and ego on display for all the world to see. Not only is this little human LITERALLY a version of us, BUT we are also making decisions every day to shape these little people. It’s our nature AND nurture laid bare for judgment.
“Look, everybody it’s a little version of me! Tell me what you think!”
Whoa. That’s big. That’s a lot, especially in a society that has elevated the act of parenting (at least in theory) to the “MOST important job.” That is a lot of pressure if everything is going well. Should you or your child vary from this highly intense standard then watch out. Do you take your child to day care? Or feed them fast food? Or occasionally raise your voice? Does your child sometimes exhibit something other than perfect cheerfulness all the time? Or - God forbid - have an actual delay or disability?
Prepare yourself to crash headfirst into that societal wall of expectation. It hurts and, if we're being honest, it doesn't always bring out the best in us.
So, we feel vulnerable and then we compete and we judge and we criticize. Let's hand the mic to my most favorite of favorites Brené Brown shall we?
We all need to stop and just take a breath. With a few exceptions, we all want what is best for our children and we are ALL wondering if what we're doing actually IS the best thing. And that's ok. We're going to screw it up. It's the human tradition to screw up raising your kids in some form or fashion! We're in good company.
Plus, even when we are doing it right, this is not a zero sum game. There is plenty of love and growth and success to go around for all of or children.
Tell the voice in your head insisting YOU are right and THEY are wrong to calm down.
My voice gets loud about extracurricular activities right now. I hear other parents talking about all the cool stuff their kids are doing and I worry I'm making the wrong choice for mine. What if Griffin decides in second grade he wants to play baseball? Will it be too late because I didn't sign him up for t-ball? Will Amos lose his interest in music because I don't take him to music lessons once a week? Will NO ONE get into college!?!?
I feel myself defensively insisting to any parent that will listen that that evenings are important and they are ... FOR MY FAMILY. Perhaps those families have their best discussions in the car or when a parent isn't stressed by cooking dinner - maybe they all eat breakfast together - I don't know!
And that's the point.
As, Kacey Musgraves so eloquently puts it in my new theme song, "I don't know about the rock in your shoe." But I DO know we all have a rock and pointing out the size of their rock doesn't actually make mine smaller.
And - rock or no - there might be a destination but there is no actual race. So, we can all keep hobbling along at our own pace and pray the smooth paths are long and the rocky patches are short.