Bragging Dad and mom Are Making Parenting All About Them, And We’re Over It
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I’ll never forget the overwhelming pressures (uh, competition) that came with new motherhood. Fellow mothers were sure that flash cards, educational (loud) toys, Baby Einstein videos and specially ordered blackboard books would turn our infants and toddlers into geniuses. Shameless bragging was on everyone’s lips. Could your new fourteen-month-old count to five – in Spanish? Did Blake know his shapes or what about his letters, days of the week or months of the year? Letter sounds, baby signatures, and site words are just as important. Oh, and did your kindergarten kid get the honor roll?
News. Babies just want to play. That should be their only job besides pooping, peeing, tantrums, sleeping, and eating. But we didn’t have it. Our children would be the best, and we would surely let you know about them – often. However, as I got older and had more children, I realized that parenting is just not about parents. Our kids are no better off when we brag about them – or when we gossip about how crappy other kids are. In fact, I’m pretty sure it just makes us look like total idiots. I also learned that the competition to make our children above average – and to tell everyone and their mother about it – is a pure privilege.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of our children, nor is there anything wrong with sharing their accomplishments with friends and family – which, as we know, is more happening on social media these days than personally. But when we force our children to perform for adults, mostly to feed our own parental egos, it’s just gross. Also, there is no point in our children other than teaching them that they are only as good as what they do to make us temporarily happy.
The thing is, parents can do anything, including caring, loving, supporting, and encouraging their children, and that doesn’t mean their children shine compared to their peers. Some children have special needs while others are different without a diagnosis. Where do you fit into the parenting competition? When I saw newer mothers chatting in the park, each humbly-not-humbly bragging about what their toddler can do, I wanted to scream. What about the mother on the edge of the park, putting her child on the adaptive swing, the child who is non-verbal? Where does it fit in?
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Having the “best” children, it seems, also comes from privileges. Only some parents can afford to send their children to camps and trainings to help them improve their skills – whatever that may be. Tutors and coaching sessions can be astronomically expensive. Weekend events – like championship games outside of the state – are all about privileges. Most extra-curricular programs come at a moderate or high price, and there are few scholarships available. This means that children who already have a head start in life are more likely to experience the best of the best, move up into privileges – and brag about rights.
In the meantime, those of us with children with special needs are struggling over the basics of how to get access to a free and decent public education that matches our normal functioning peers. We sit in IEP meetings – as well as many other conferences – fighting for the services our children need to barely make it. We fight against the health insurance companies for the therapies our children need.
I really believe that most parents love their children, but when parents suggest that they are better than average because of their children’s achievements (ahem, privileges), what they are really saying is that they are somehow more apt to raise children . They are special and possess a kind of magic that others don’t, especially those who raise neurodiverse and children with other disabilities. Also, it’s pointless and frankly rude to look down on kids (when comparing your above average kids to others).
The ableism and privilege that parental boast exudes is disturbing. Other parents just have to try harder – keep their eyes on the price. Stop making excuses, set goals, and strive for them. What we really know is that children who excel often have a lot of money and opportunity – not available to all children – working on their behalf.
We allow our children to be who they are. Whether they’re small or big for their age, when they have different skills, when they need help – whatever. We will work hard to help them succeed at their own pace. What we’re not going to do is subscribe to the parental boast that comes from selfishness. This doesn’t do our children any good, and it certainly doesn’t make us better or good parents.
I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that when my baby crawls doesn’t really matter compared to other babies. Who cares if another mother’s toddler sleeps through the night and mine doesn’t? That doesn’t make me a shitty mother, nor does it mean there is something wrong with my child. It doesn’t matter when my preschooler learned to write their name (which wasn’t in preschool anyway) or stopped confusing all the numbers between thirteen and nineteen.
Bragging parents is a waste of time. It temporarily increases self-esteem for the show-off and can stir up resentment and jealousy in the listener. It is a lose-lose situation to make our children’s growth – no matter what the pace – above us. We can authentically celebrate our children’s accomplishments without telling the whole world how great we – uh, I mean our kids – are.