Jake is a former co-worker and blogger extraordinaire. He has a unique sense of humor, finding the amusing in what many would say is mundane, there is a strong biting wit in each successive post he pens. He keeps a private blog brimming with plenty of gut busting laughs. As soon as I had read several of his posts, I knew I wanted Jake to do a guest spot in Perspectives. Well...here it is! This is Jake's take on competitive parenting. Enjoy responsibly!
MY KID CAN BEAT UP YOUR KID
Have you ever seen the SNL skit where Kristen Wiig plays a character named Penelope. She's the annoying girl that tries to one-up everything you say? If you say you enjoy looking at the stars, she'll say she lives in a hotel on the moon. The skit is actually quite hilarious, and I think represents an issue going on in today's world: the need to best your fellow man, especially when it comes to comparing kids.
As the father of 5-yr and 2-yr old daughters, I have been guilty of this issue as well, though I've tried hard not to. Seriously, what is with this innate desire to have your child be superior to other children? Does it make you a better person? A better parent? Nope. In my opinion, it makes you a dick. Plain and simple.
My co-worker, Jamie, is a fantastic gal, and a great mother of 2 young boys. Her and I often chat about parenting because it's a common bond we both share, and because her 2-yr old son (Wyatt) and my 2-yr old daughter (Sam) were born within seven days of each other. Thus, you would expect they would develop at virtually the same pace, right?
All kids are different, and our children are no exception. While Wyatt was walking at about 10 months of age, Sam didn't take steps until 15 months. So, for 5 months, I felt like crap about the fact my daughter's feeble legs wouldn't support her chubby frame. Was this a failure on my part as a parent? No, Sam just didn't see the need to walk.
Lately, Jamie and I have been talking about...well...talking. Our children are vastly different when it comes to speech development. Sam probably has about 300 words in her vocabulary, and has even uttered an occasional 5 word sentence, complete with nouns, verbs, and hell, I think I even caught an adverb in there once. It's actually pretty amazing.
Meanwhile, Wyatt struts around like a cave-toddler, pointing at the fridge and saying "UUUHHHHH" when he wants a popsicle. Jamie, of course, feels that she is failing as a mom, when nothing could be further from the truth. Wyatt just hasn't felt the need to speak at this point. Plus, who are we to judge what's going on in this little boy's head? He could be justifying the Pythagorean Theorem, or writing a sequel to "War and Peace."
Parents have always had a desire to live vicariously through their children. We try to avoid whatever failures we experienced in our own lives. If you always wanted to be a professional athlete, but couldn't for one reason or another, I guarantee you'll push your child to fulfill this path. But is this the child's dream, or is it yours?
I don't think there's ever been a time where a childless couple makes love, finishes, and then the man says to his now impregnated wife, "We just made a child, honey. He or she will be the apple of our eye, and with God as my witness, when our child is 2 years old, he or she will speak in 5-word sentences. I'll accept nothing less!"
You non-parents out there might not be buying what I'm selling, but trust me, there are conversations like these happening RIGHT now between braggart parents.
Mom 1: "What are you doing this weekend, Pam?"
Mom 2: "Well, I'm so proud, actually. My 5-yr old raised $50 from her Kindergarten classmates for the cancer walk this weekend, so we'll be bringing a check and walking a few miles to show our support."
Mom 1: "Oh, didn't you hear? My little Johnny cured cancer yesterday. So, the walk's been cancelled."
Why do we do this, parents? Having children is a club to which we all belong. So what if your kid walked early, talked early, smiled early (probably just gas), giggled early, pooped on the potty at a young age (probably dumb luck), or drew a picture of a stick figure with a green head? As long as your kid reads, writes, walks, talks, and becomes a non-murdering member of society, you've done your job.
Can't we all just get along?