My Child Can Beat Your Child: How To Make Competitive Parents Shut Up
FlaglerLive | June 25, 2014
By Catherine Durkin Robinson
It’s been almost 15 years since I decided to give this whole Mommy Thing a try. Back in 2000, I said goodbye to friends, who would go on to shape global policies, so I could move back to Tampa and find fulfillment in “Goodnight Moon” and “Banana Phone.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I joined a few playgroups and immediately started to hate people. It’s not just that these parents couldn’t tell the difference between Iraq and Iran or discuss anything other than Feng Shui baby rooms. More disturbingly, they were already convinced about which babies would and would not be accepted to Harvard in 2018.
I could tell from their raised eyebrows and stunned silence that I was doing it wrong. I didn’t seem to put the right amount of energy into seriously giving a damn about the speed at which my babies crawled compared to their babies. I didn’t compare my twin sons to each other, much less anyone else.
I didn’t care who was eating solids first and I didn’t care who was walking before the Edelstein twins, who apparently had round-the-clock Developmental Milestone coaches, and so were clearly at an unfair advantage.
I wanted to talk about how the Patriot Act passed Congress.
Competitive moms and dads only got worse as our kids all got older. At pre-school birthday parties, parents were obsessed with which children could read Dr. Seuss books and create elaborate scenes from those books in unused shoe boxes. I tried to avoid conversations with these people by reading self-help books in public.
But, parents still talked to me and compared…everything. So I started coming up with unique responses.
“Little Avery already speaks fluent French. We are truly blessed.”
I’d wipe my nose and say,
“We are having a great week, too. Jake no longer poops in the tub.”
When they asked if my kids tested for the gifted program?
“No, but Zach only sucks his thumb now when Daddy drinks, so…that’s something.”
In middle school, it gets worse. Apparently, I was still doing it wrong. Our kids played several sports, while competitive parents insisted they should excel in one — to better their chances for a scholarship. We thought high honor roll was great, while competitive parents berated their children for anything less than straight As.
“It’s only the first week of summer and already Hannah has completed Virtual Trigonometry and 1,000 hours of community service. How are your boys enjoying their vacation so far?”
I shrugged and said,
“We can’t get them out of the shower.”
After all these years, I was losing hope because it seemed no matter what I tried, parents insisted on talking to me. They approached me at parties, performances, and Publix. I tried looking away, staying quiet, nodding and smiling…all of it encouraged more crazy talk.
This past weekend, I tried one last thing. It worked, so I’m sharing this secret weapon with you.
The next time a competitive parent approaches you with a story about their overachiever who has done so much, and wants to compare your children’s intellect, athletic ability and grade point average, just smile at the mom or dad and say,
“Enough about our kids, how are you? Tell me about your own accomplishments this past school year. What have YOU done lately?”
Then enjoy the silence. Finally.
Catherine Durkin Robinson is a political advocate and organizer, living in Tampa. Reach her by email here.