Iím slowly become used to the pace of life as a Parent of Triplets + 1 living in the suburban desert of America. Iím slowly becoming used to the barrage of weird things Iím pummeled by everyday in this world I didnít make and only partially agree to live in. What I'm not used to, however, is how some folks seem to be constantly engaged in Competitive Parenting. Their child is always better than yours because they are the Perfect Parent and you, by comparison, suck eggs.
There's a parent at our school who, for the sake of discretion, I'll call ďMommy Dearest.Ē Mommy Dearest seems to live only to assert her status as Alpha Mom and promote her daughterís reputation as the Anointed One.
After less than one minute of conversation with her last week, I learned the following things:
1. A good parent provides takes a "firm hand" in their childrenís discipline or risk "letting them run all over you." The example of this was her 3-year-old's 45 minute time-out in the hallway right outside the door of the Birthday party she had been invited to. The crime the 3-year-old committed? Giving Mommy Dearest an ugly look in the car.
I keep hearing "NO MORE WIRE HANGERS" in my head when I think of this example of "Perfect Parenting."
2. Most Husbands don't attend children's events because most, like her perfect husband, are "just too busy with their careers."
This is one of those things I just can't ever hope to measure up to. I know that being a good Father means more than just bringing home the bacon but must include a slavish devotion to one's job and total neglect of your children's lives.
Since if this is clearly the standard for the Perfect Family, I'm doomed. I frequently take time off my job to do stuff at my Kidís school. I read to the kid's for story time; I lead the Imagination Express Art Program once a semester; I take time my job just to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. I love how big a thrill such little things seem to be to the children and how proud they look when they tell the other kids, "This is my Dad." There aren't too many years in their lives when they will do this and I don't want to miss any of them.
I'm not a Perfect Parent. I can't claim to posses good or even superior parenting skills. I'm frequently made irritable by my children's overwhelming demands for me to do things for them. It's inevitable that on any given day, I will be needed to fix some cheap plastic toy 47 times, change batteries in some annoyingly noisy toy 34 times, make the kid's computer work 29 times, and be constantly interrupted in any and everything I need to do--like urinate--until the veins in my eyeballs are bursting due to my dangerously elevated blood pressure.
Jill kindly reminds me that they won't always need my help and I will miss my current elevated status as the Dad-who-can-fix-everything once they get too old.
She's right, of course, but tell that to the growing aneurysm in my head.
3. We collected more box tops for the school than she did because, ďThey just donít eat processed food.Ē
Somehow, even when we less than perfect parents win, we lose. Because, in winning, we obviously reveal what a hopelessly toxic and nutritionally bankrupt lifestyle we lead. If only we were like Mommy Dearest, we would grow, harvest, and mill our own flower, grow all our own produce, milk our own cows, and all the other things a Perfect Parent does to ensure a nutritionally pure diet for our precious little perfect children.
But, you know, your perfect little girl failing to win Kudos for box top donations isnít particularly important in the grand scheme of the universe. Certainly not important enough for you to invent some BS excuse about why you, with your one perfect child, didnít produce as many box tops as we did with our four highly imperfect children. Letís review some simple math: if one child= 50 box tops, 4 children = 200 box tops.
Furthermore, I donít care if we gave more box tops than you. IT DOESNíT MATTER. I donít care how perfect you are. YOU DONíT IMPRESS ME.
However, because Iím a compassionate insect, I am worried about something. Every time I see you, your hair is perfect. It is either in a perfect, helmet like not-a-hair-out-of-place-or-moving hairdo, or in a perfect not-a-hair-out-of-place pony tail. In scenario one, the amount of industrial strength hair glue required to maintain such a style in the normal 20 MPH Oklahoma wind has to reach toxic levels. It just canít be healthy. In the second scenario, the surface tension created by that tightly wound pony tail could become hazardous at some point. Should whatever you use to chain it down with ever manage break free from itís moorings, it could endanger everyone within striking distance of the thousands of flying tendrils of decapitation. This scenario is just clearly no good for anybody.
One last thing... I'm going to have to inform you that your Perfect Child includes competitive nose picking among her many incredible talents. According to my kids, her skill in nose picking is second only to her ability to consume the by-products of that activity. Iím sure she is, however, the most perfect of nose pickers.
Parenting isn't a competition for me. It's a ball and chain. It's a burden. It's my cross-to-bear. It's also my pride and joy and I wouldn't trade my crappy parenting skills for one of your perfect ones. My kids are unruly quite often. They are loud, rude, and as undisciplined as your average seven year old despite Jill and my best efforts.
They're not perfect and I'm neither am I and I don't care. I'm just happy to be here and be able to continue a new day screwing up all the things I screw up every day.
If I'm competitive it in telling stories about all the ways I screw up. I tell these stories because most of the time people laugh and when they laugh, I laugh then everybody is happy.
Most importantly, despite my parenting screw-ups, my kids are smart and happy and only moderately neurotic unlike me who is a full blown basket case most of the time.
Mommy Dearest, on the other hand, probably has mastered any number of spiritual and intellectual techniques which has brought her complete and total peace, bliss, and an anxiety free life. Contrary to what one might consider compensatory behavior to cover for extreme insecurities, her constant need for asserting her parenting perfection is just proof that she's better than all of us.
Well, as my personal Guru, Steven Tyler, once sang, "Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination." So, as long as I draw breath and keep my mortal coil intact, I can continue to strive to attain a Mommy Dearest level of perfection. I think I'll start with perfecting my competition nose picking skill.