I've known my best friend for roughly 27 years. We met on the kindergarten bus when the driver made us sit together. We hardly spoke that first year.
We ended up in the same class in 1st grade. Our desks were next to each other. That year we spoke. And we've been speaking since unless you count that year-ish hiatus when we didn't.
My bf is smart and she works hard. She's now a doctor and a professor.
My bf's mother was competitive and she worked hard at that. Its something I'll never forget - the feeling that everything I did when I was around her was judged and compared. Areas I excelled in and bf didn't were whisked away with a simple excuse. Areas where bf did better than I did were met with a satisfied smile that said it all - my kid is better than you.
Each year we'd take the standardized Iowa test. And each year moments after the school bus set us free the phone would ring. Bf's mom calling mine. The question was always the same - she wanted to know how I scored. If it was lower than bf she'd say "Oh, well, S got. . ." if it were the same or higher it would invariably come with something along the lines of "Oh, well S didn't really prepare for it this year," or "S didn't sleep well the night before." She was always better than me or have a reason why it didn't appear to be that way.
When our first set of IQ tests came back, bf was put into the gifted and talented program. They were taken out of regular classes once a week and made special projects. They made up what they missed after class. Predictably bf mom called to share the news, already knowing I wasn't going along each week. My mom never did mention to her that I had gotten an invite to join G&T also, but after evaluating what I'd get out of it vs the missed class time my parents opted to pass.
The thing with the sport of competitive parenting is that no one wins. In fact, not only does no one win, but someone loses big. I remember the things BF gave up. The way she had homework papers ripped up because her left-handed writing wasn't neat enough. I remember the way she'd miss a social event because she had more hours of studying to go -- getting an A wasn't good enough, she had to have the A+. And I see the way, to this day, my bf always views her accomplishments by the way they rank against everyone else's. I remember how it made me feel to be compared. How bad I felt for bf if I exceeded her and how irked I got if her mom found out she had bested me. My parents were very good at pushing the competition off on bf mom in a way that assured me it didn't matter how she did vs me as long as I did the best I could. It didn't bruise my ego as much as it did occasionally put a wedge in my friendship.
Now that I'm a parent I see the trend from a new viewpoint. I see the way a child, even a young one, bristles when it starts. I cringe knowing the way it impacts a child on other side. I know what it can do to friendships and to self-esteem.
I remember being in the mall with my mother and Logan when he was 15 months old. He was playing in the little area play area with another little boy roughly the same age.
"He's adorable," another mom said, nodding towards Logan. "He chatters a lot. How old is he? Mine is 18 months. What is he, 2?"
And so we told her how old Logan was and she said, "Oh. Connor has all his teeth in. How many does your son have?"
Teeth? Teeth? What the hell!
I have a mommy-friend that is the new Queen of Compare, replacing my friend's late mother. Queen and I met in a baby swim class. She was comparing the boys even then when her's was 6 months to Logan's 9 months. Every time we talk, which has become few and far between, she compares. If A can't match up to Logan at something she has something else A is better at. She delivers her observation with such tone and judgment that it reeks of "Yeah well, your kid stinks at. . ." Her insecurity is maddening and it pushes buttons I wish I didn't have.
With Queen I will do what I haven't wanted to do. I will fall back into a competition. "Oh, that's nice. . .did I tell you that Logan got this new set of phonics and early word books that he's reading now? He sounds at the words he doesn't already know. Its so neat to watch him figure it all out."
Its something I typically avoid. Sure, I will share my children's accomplishments and milestones because what parent doesn't want to delight in the things her kid does. There are things I don't always mention though unless someone notices one of them doing it or if something similar comes up in conversation. For example, another dear friend of mine, the mother of Logan's 'best' friends (or so he refers to them now) has no idea that Logan is in the early stages of reading on his own. There's no need to. There's no want to. It doesn't make me a better mother any more than it makes him a better kid. Its just something he's learned to do - something he's wanted to learn to do and so we helped him achieve it.
Yet there are other's in addition to Queen that get the best of me. I don't like it. In fact it makes me rather blue to realize it happens. Mom's that compare to often or mom's that make excuses or mom's that brush away the things my children do with a "yeah well. . ." type comment. More often than not I just smile and move on. The habitual offenders though are the ones that tweak me one time too often and set me off on a trail I regret going down.
Its a parenting trait I don't like and its one that I'm sad to see I sometimes dabble in. Writing this has been cathartic though. Writing it reminds me to strive to be the way my parents were. I want to match their ability to laugh it off feeling bad for the offender because really how sad to feel the need to go there. I want to smile and nod politely all the while knowing it really doesn't matter who does what when, as long as my child is doing the best he/she can at any given time.