Competitive Parenting

I remember sitting with a friend when our two oldest children were learning to crawl and walk.  Her son could walk freely without holding on to anything, while my son needed the stability of a hand.  A few months later, her son could hit a ball with a bat, and my son felt content sitting on my lap.  A few years later her son was on a competitive baseball team while my son rode his bike up and down our street replaying his day and ‘making stories’ in his head.  Little did we both know, we each felt jealous of the other’s child.  Her son quickly went through milestones my son was taking his time on.  Our son didn’t appear interested in the activities that most children were participating in.  Before we knew it, we were hiding in our own parenting competition.

Out of pride, out of love, or out of judgment many parents find themselves comparing their child to the child of a friend or peer.  We get caught up on ‘when will my son ______?‘ or ‘her son is so _____!‘  This was an unexpected development in parenting that hit me hard.  I hadn’t been a competitive person growing up or in my early years of marriage.  I was laid back about other people’s accomplishments and choices.  I was happy for my friends’ successes and sat with them in their struggles.  But when my first child was born BAM! I was caught in raising ‘the best baby’ which required being ‘the best parent’.

Fast forward a few years to two young children, a mom who wanted to be perfect, and a marriage that was put on hold while every milestone was met at the appropriate developmental stage.  I worked full-time, trained for a marathon, became a certified trainer, traveled all over the US training other parents and caregivers, cooked, shopped, cleaned, washed, bathed, and instructed.  All the while I was losing a part of my genuine self every second of every day.

One day I noticed the pattern that was quickly created.  I vowed to change myself, but it wouldn’t be easy.  Everywhere around me were parents vying to prove their child was the best.  The best reader, the best swimmer, the most out-going, the most reserved, the sweetest, and the protector.  No matter where we were, my husband and I noticed how all parents worked hard to get their child noticed.

In my experience, I was working hard to prove I was a good parent.  What kind of consultant and trainer would I be if my children weren’t ‘good’?  However, what was happening at home was far different than what I was doing outside our home.  At home, there was no judgment about behavior.  Outside the home I was a nervous wreck.  At home, our children were perfectly created to be who they are.  Outside the home I had to prove that.  At home, we spent a lot of quiet time as a family.  Outside the home I wanted them to be outgoing.

Thankfully I’m done.  I’m done worrying about who my children are ‘going to be’ and live with who they are right now.  I’m done worrying about what you think of me and instead focus my energy on who I am created to be.  I’m done comparing my parenting and my children to you and yours.  I’m happy for you. I’m standing beside you.  And, I know we are all exactly where we are meant to be today.


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