Competitive parents

It’s been a while since I decided to give this whole Mommy Thing a try.

Back in 2000, my twins were born. I said goodbye to co-workers, who would go on to shape global policies. I postponed my career so I could move to the suburbs and find fulfillment in Goodnight Moon and Banana Phone.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I joined a few playgroups and felt my first panic attacks. What had I done?

It’s not just that these parents couldn’t discuss foreign policy or the gross national product or 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 everyone 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,” one mom would say. “We are truly blessed.”

I’d wipe my nose and reply,

“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.”

In middle school, it got worse. Apparently, I was still doing it wrong.

Jake and Zach played many different 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 1000 hours of community service,” one mom told me. “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 lost hope because it seemed no matter what I tried, parents still talked to me. They approached me at parties, performances, and the grocery store. I tried looking away, staying quiet, nodding and smiling…all of it encouraged more crazy talk.

Then 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.