Competitive Parenting

Competitive, one-upping moms. Whhhhhhyyyyyyy.

To be fair, trying to compete with other parents over progeny can also be a dad trait. But as I typically spend more time with the moms than I do with the dads I can only comment fully on this behavior from moms.

Again I say whhhhhhyyyyyyy….

Recently the kiddos and I went to the beach. I love going to the beach and often find myself just as wet and dirty as they are by the time we’re done. This particular time though I might have taken things too far as I basically allowed K2 to cover me in the rocky sand. It was in my hair, stuck to my face, and in my clothes. He thought it was hilarious though, and since I made sure to wear my ready-to-be-destroyed beach clothes (an old pair of knit capris and a t-shirt), I went with it. Eventually though we had to walk the mile home and the temperature had risen. So the gritty sand congealed into beachy cement all over me when it mixed with the humidity and the sweat.

But I wasn’t thinking of my appearance. Not the littlest bit. It was one of the first days of summer and I was having fun with my kids. We stopped for snacks on the way home, and while in the little shop we ran into a classmate of K2’s. The kid’s mother was with him.

She looked fresh as a daisy. I thought to myself that I really liked the pretty top she was wearing. She totally did the “full body up and down” visual sweep to me that some women do to other women. She did not look impressed. I realized then that I probably looked like I had been attacked by an angry sand monster, but again I really didn’t care. But the other mom seemed to care. A lot.

Strike one for me. Total loss of poise and appearance points.

I asked if they were from the neighborhood, which is the same neighborhood I live in. She was clearly annoyed I thought she lived in our somewhat blue collar community, and went on to tell me at length about how they live in one of the fancy schmancy neighborhoods not far away. I begrudge no one a fancy, schmancy neighborhood and just let her talk before saying that this was my neighborhood.

Strike two for me. Wrong zip code.

She mentioned that her oldest was going to a new school in the fall and I asked where the kiddo was going to be. The mom goes on to tell me how her kid is going into the high school medical academy. I’m confused. There’s a medical academy for high school students? She says “Oh its at _______.” I say, “Oh! She’s going to _____ High! That’s a good school. My friend’s kids go there.” She gets affronted and reiterates that her darling is in a special academy there. Maybe it was too much sun that day, but I was legitimately confused because the school itself is a good one and has several awesome educational paths. So why all the fuss that the kid was going into a special academy? A lot of kids are in one academy or another at the school.

Strike three for me. I didn’t coo over her special little angel’s academic accomplishments.

Clearly we are not meant to be BFFs.

Looking back on it she probably thought I was being bitchy and shutting her down. But my questions and responses were sincerely out of confusion. I’m usually quicker on my feet than that but I wasn’t focusing as K2 was having difficulty not spilling his melting ice cream sandwich all over the table. And I was covered in uncomfortable beach cement. I was not totally focused on her or what she was saying.

So she turned her attention to K2. K2 looks at his buddy and tells a slightly rude joke. It was clearly a long standing, inside joke and K2 was confused when his friend didn’t join in. K2 doesn’t understand yet that jokes that are “appropriate” (I’m using the term “appropriate” loosely here) on the playground aren’t always appropriate in front of uptight parents. The mom then grabbed her son, made a hasty goodbye, and practically ran to her car like her pants were on fire.

Clearly we have been booted from the game. At the time I thought this woman was being snooty and judgmental of me and my kids, and probably maybe she was.

But maybe I should look at it from her point of view. We did roll in there like a herd of dirty turtles, covered in grit, and I bet I looked like a crazy lady. I’m sure she thought I was being rude and shutting down her bragging about her beloved kid. Then K2 makes a joke that barely substitutes some rather bad words. We live in a community much different from what she knows. I’m sure we seemed at least a little trashy from her perspective.

Or maybe she was just being judgmental and rude. Maybe I was being judgmental and rude. Either way we were not communicating well.

But this got me to thinking about how moms can either advertently or inadvertently hurt each other by judging and one upping each other. And it happens all the time! It’s terrible and it hurts our relationships with other women. We need to be better than this because we’re all in it together. If you’re not sure what I mean here are some tips:

  • When a parent is excited that her kid did something new & cool in sports/school/whatever, just say something like “Oh that’s cool!” Don’t say “Well MY child did that LAST YEAR.” That’s rude.
  • On that note, if someone is talking about something their kid is doing, don’t automatically get defensive and assume you need to compete. Sometimes people are just happy and proud and want to share. It’s not a slight on you or your child. Take a minute to enjoy the happiness of someone else, even if it has nothing to do with you.
  • Can we stop trying to one up each other on how much money we spend on our kids? I recently heard about a conflict where two moms were heatedly arguing over who spent more on makeup for their 8 year olds (it was for some sort of sporting competition). The “winner” bought her daughter MAC. The “loser” bought Kylie Jenner. For 8 year olds. They were arguing over who spent more on designer makeup for kids. Why is this a thing? Why don’t you both be happy for each other that you can afford such luxuries for your children and stop bickering. Seriously, there’s more important things to get heated over.
  • Lastly, let’s not always assume the worst of each other. I really think the mom in my story thought I was being rude. I wasn’t meaning to be, I was just tired, grubby, and distracted. Maybe if we meet again it will go better. Maybe I’ll never see her again. Either way I wish her and her children well.

So be kind to each other! It’s a small world and everyone is fighting some sort of battle you know nothing about. You don’t have to be a doormat but you also don’t have to treat everything as a challenge. Being polite and kind matters, even if it doesn’t directly impact you.

Until Next Time,


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