The Parenting Olympics
As human beings, it's in our nature to be competitive—from sports to class ranking to office politics to the greenest lawn. It gets pretty sick, however, when people treat parenting like a series of Olympic events.
The competitive parents I've met tend to fall into three main categories: Complainers, Experts and Braggers.
The Complainer starts the competition early by talking about her horrible pregnancy, followed by the details of the emergency birth, during which the doctor left a sponge in her abdomen. She continues to describe parenting only in terms of what her child is lacking or the areas in which she's lagging behind. Any time another parent has a concern to discuss, the Complainer steps in with a series of reasons why her child is in worse condition. I feel sad for the Complainer's child, who will eventually become old enough to hear how sickly and lacking she is. The advantage to hanging around a Complainer is gaining an appreciation for all the good things in your own life. But beware: A Complainer can really drag you down.
No matter what parenting style you are trying, the Expert has done it—and better. The Expert usually has a handful of children and a condescending attitude. Every discussion revolves around what parenting books she has read or parenting strategies she has practiced and passed judgment on. The Expert doesn't mind stepping on others' toes in her quest to prove her intelligence and superiority. The advantage of talking to the Expert is that she may actually have a few good ideas. The downside? A pummeled ego, because whatever you're doing will never meet the Expert's standards.
Finally there's the Bragger. You know, the mother with the honor student bumper sticker and a kid enrolled in every possible extracurricular activity. She breastfeeds until her child turns 23. Her kid goes from violin to chess practice daily, and plays soccer on the weekends. Everything her little one does is sunshine and light, and her precious angel never causes any conflict—even when she does. The advantage of chatting with the Bragger? Uh … none!
Parenting is at its best when people support, help and respect one another. Playdates are divine when the parents get along as well as the children, but even when they don't, why should it have to turn nasty and competitive? The last time I checked, no one was handing out medals to parents whose kids learned to use the potty first.