I am wondering when “competitive parenting” became the number one activity among adults today? You know, when sharing information about your children feels like an Olympic sport. Yeah that.
Those regular assertions about “little Johnny’s” prowess on the sports field; the comparing of reading levels when your child starts reception/kindergarten; having to do the “walk of shame” when your child doesn’t pass the 11+. These are all aspects of competitive parenting that are now common place among the mums and dads at the school gates. (Although I should add it doesn’t start or stop there; in fact it pretty much seeps in to most conversations you have with other parents these days).
My first memories of the hazards of competitive parenting came when my son walked at 9 months. This seemed to send most of the other mums in my baby & toddler group in to a tailspin as they assumed I had been doing something “special” to get this “result”. I hadn’t and, therefore, had nothing to pass on. It was hard luck for me and even harder luck for the mum’s whose babies weren’t even crawling yet. Of course I felt guilty and apologised profusely, telling them all my horror stories of how he kept falling over, bruising and cutting himself, and was constantly running out of my reach in public places. In fact I made walking at 9 months seem like the worse thing that could happen to your child just so I wasn’t ostracized from the group!
Of course my daughters didn’t walk until they were 18 months and then I experienced the reverse. “Not walking yet? Oh…..”
Parents have this idea that they control all aspects of there children’s live from the minute they’re born to the day they graduate from University. Parents think that they need to steer their children through a clear course of agendas, activities, and achievements or a place at Oxford/Harvard is going to be forever out of reach. So when did a child’s reading age prove to have a direct correlation to them receiving a First Degree at a red brick/ivy league University? I think I missed the study on that one.
The problem for the people and the institutions that take care of the children during these years, is that anything or anybody that tries to detract from this course is quite frankly, “licence to kill”. Your child isn’t picked for the top team, happens to be sitting next to an academic “loser”, not getting challenging enough homework, effort grades are down…well any of this is par for the course in terms of parent interference. Emails, consultations, and confrontations are fired off to the poor unsuspecting parent/teacher/coach who dared to stand in the way of little Johnny’s worldwide domination.
My son regularly tells me of parents who insist their child play a certain position on the “A” team for whatever sport is in season even though their ability is lacking. “Why does this happen?” he asks me. It doesn’t happen in the real world I reassure him. “But I am afraid you will just have to put up with this while you are at school.” Don’t get me wrong, I am all for every child getting a go. That’s fair. Kicking and screaming when your child doesn’t continue to get a go, well that’s just pushy.
When did the playing fields stop being for casually throwing a ball around?
When did music lessons suddenly become all about the grades?
When did ballet lessons become less about the pretty pink tutu and more about the exams?
When did a poor maths grade mean one-on-one tutoring?
The precious few hours after school before bed-time have become an opportunity to further children’s academic or athletic ability. No more play time, or god forbid, an hour in front of the television. It’s the same at the weekends and I sometimes wonder if these children have any time to just “chill out”. To hang with friends. To be bored. I recently told another mum that for my family Sundays are always a day of rest. She told me to “get a life!”
Thing is, I have so many crazy competitive parenting stories, I could write on and on. I am sure anyone who is parenting now will also have them. We love to point the finger and say, “Wow are they competitive!” Many of us will profess to be all about nurturing and love and letting our children “be”. I have a feeling though that most of us will in some way or another fall in to the bracket of competitive parent. If not just to keep up with the “Joneses” and ensure our child gets that fighting chance.
I wonder if it’s completely possible to end the jealously and just enjoy our children?
Next time you are involved in a one-upmanship discussion about your child STOP. Remind yourself they all get there in the end. They all have different talents and skills (of which yours has many). Most importantly, the boastful talk is NOT about the child, it’s about the parent. And when you stop, they might just stop as well.
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar (plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling)
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses or treacle
Preheat oven to 350 / 180 / gas mark 4.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a small bowl.
On the medium speed of a mixer, or by hand, beat together the oil and sugar for 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and molasses/treacle and mix well. Now add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the mix on to ungreased baking trays. Make sure to leave an inch or more between each drop. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Bake for 12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and then move on to a wire rack.