Joining the Mompetition
But it starts from the moment you announce your pregnancy. And it never stops.
Showing off your newly pregnant self to your friends and co-workers? Expect comments like:
- Oh, you are so much smaller/bigger than I was at 10 weeks!
- You are carrying way lower than I did.
- I was five years younger when I had my first!
And so on. Like one of those horrid essay questions in high school: Compare and contrast your pregnancy with that of anyone around you who even slightly looks pregnant.
Once the baby arrives, you crave the companionship of other moms who are hyped-up on coffee and wear spit stains 24/7. Joining a playgroup when my son was a baby saved my sanity, and I found several friends who I still remain close to sixteen years later.
I also found a new breeding ground for the comparisons.
We went through the smiling/rolling over/babbling/crawling/pulling up/learning to walk stages together, not one of our little ones doing anything exactly the same as the others. And while we all memorized the stats for our own kid, trying to remember the stats for the other kids was impossible.
If my little one just said - Dada for the first time and yours in enrolling in Mensa, who does it benefit if we compare them? I remember always feeling like my kid was either way ahead of the curve or had missed the boat entirely. It's not a good way to feel.
Don't get me wrong: I really do love hearing people talk about their kids. There's nothing like being a parent, so why not share and commiserate a bit? I just appreciate it more when it's done for the right reasons.
So I made a conscious decision at some point to stop.
If someone asked me a specific question about my son's growth or progress, I would answer them honestly. But I would no longer use these tidbits as conversation starters or even bring them up on my own. This drove a few moms a wee bit crazy. Conversations would go something like this: "- Oh, Billy just said his first sentence the other day! It was adorable and we got it on tape! He'ss so advanced." I would counter with, - "How exciting for you guys!" and get a blank stare back. The mom would wait for me to either counter her stat with mine or lament the fact that our little one hadn't started speaking in sentences yet, but a few times had been heard speaking in tongues.
Once they start elementary school, the kid comparisons really ramp up. Academics, sports, and social skills are all newly-charted areas in which your child can be ranked against the others. Did your kid get tested for the Gifted Program? How did he score on the Standardized Tests? Is he in the Advanced spelling group? Did he get invited to Bobby's birthday party? Make the first cut for Little League? How's his penmanship grade? Penmanship? Seriously?
And so on, into Middle School and High School. I continued my method of keeping my son's stats to myself, unless specifically asked. And even then, I refused to give any actual scores or testing results. I'm actually quite good at playing dumb.
Last fall, half-way through his senior year of high school, this whole game of comparing our kids hit a feverish level.
It was college application season, baby.
I was amazed at how many people I didn't even consider friends would ask me rather pointed questions about my son and his college stuff. What's his SAT/ACT score? AP exam scores? Class rank? GPA?
I can understand them asking where he's applying or what he'd like to study, but those stats? Personal.
So I would smile, say something polite, feign ignorance, and let them blather on about their little Billy who's headed for Stanford with a perfect SAT and GPA of 6.4.
And hope they didn't bring up the whole penmanship thing.