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An Olympic-Sized Competition

All this coverage of the Olympics lately has got me thinking about how parents handle the delicate balance of teaching our children how to be competitive. I’m not talking about the massively competitive spirit that is needed in order to reach Olympic status, but instead the everyday competition that we encounter every day as parents of young children.

The first time I really realized how much competition is involved in parenting was when I was sitting in a Gymboree class with my daughter. She was so young that she wasn’t even sitting up on her own yet, just like every other baby in the class. In walks another mom who regularly attended the class. She plops her daughter on the mats and her daughter sat up on her own. The rest of us stared in amazement, congratulated the mom on the baby’s amazing achievement, and then went on with the class.

Here is the thing: I’m pretty sure that every single one of us went home that day and tried to practice sitting up with our babies because the next week there were a few more babies with this amazing new talent, and every one of the moms were beaming as though their children had just graduated valedictorian from Harvard.

I know all babies develop at their own rate, so there is no telling if all the babies who could suddenly sit up on their own were able to do so just because it was their time, or if it was because their moms had worked with them on it. The point of the matter is this: Some of the fiercest competitions happen far from the Olympics. They happen in the playgrounds, at play areas, and at playgroups. Any time you get more than one mom in a room you might as well get the podium and medals ready because there’s going to be a competition.

I try not to compete with other parents with regards to which baby is talking and which toddler is potty training, but it’s tough. I think as parents we innately want to put our kids up on a pedestal, so it’s an urge that we have to keep reigned in lest we appear obnoxious.

On the other hand, I would like to go on record as promising that if either of my kids someday goes on to an Olympic competition I’ll be right there in the stands, screaming “That’s my baby!” as loud as humanly possible.

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