Can you think of a single sentence uttered by a parent that can draw more ire, more eyerolls, more nasty playgroup talk behind your back?
I realize that over the past several months, I have not once written about the language explosion happening daily chez Mom101, about how completely enthralled I have been watching my daughter go from caca to cracker to Mommy, more crackers pleeeeeease. She even tosses in the occasional thank you with such a self-satisfied upward lilt to her voice it breaks my heart into tiny shards each and every time.
And yet somehow I’ve been hesitant to broach the topic on my blog, fearful of sounding like one of those moms. You know, the one who has her child signing at 6 months, pushes him into into foreign language immersion classes at 12 months, and starts drilling him on homemade international heads of state flashcards all before he’s old enough to eat a raisin without choking.
(That is, an organic raisin. Of course.)
And so instead I overcompensate by saying nothing at all. Or worse, downplaying any achievements she might have, countering acknowledgments of her verbal skills with inane retorts like, “yeah but she doesn’t have any hair like your beautiful little girl!”
I’m not saying that Thalia’s brilliant by any stretch, or even particularly advanced (whatever that means at this age). While she counts to 6 all day long, she counts 2 birds as 6 just the same as she counts 20 birds as 6. Ask her what comes after 6 and sometimes it’s 7, sometimes it’s apple. The alphabet song begins with A B C D A B C. And the colors of her little play tunnel that she recently identified are apparently red, blue, and orange juice.
See, there I go again: She’s highly verbal but….
It seems we can talk about our children’s chronic booger-eating habit. We can talk about their sleep challenges. We can talk about their inability to put anything in their mouths at dinnertime that isn’t beige. But gush with awe at their ability to name 74 different animals and you’re just not someone I’d care to get to know better, thankyouverymuch. Because “my child can count!” or “my child likes books better than toys!”or “my child can tell a camel from a dromedary!” just sounds way too much like like “your child will be working for my child one of these days. Probably in the mailroom.”
So instead, we do this dance of self-deprecation with mom friends, terrified (or at best reluctant) to share those very moments that give us the most joy.
It’s like we become the opposite of competimommies — we become noncompetimommies.
It’s not hard to figure out why we do this. Let’s face it, it’s easier to bond with other women by confessing our insecurities and shortcomings rather than our successes–and I think this goes double when our children are involved. The line between expressing awe and boasting is so fine, so precarious, that it’s better not to tap dance within a hundred miles of it at all.
I also have a theory that we, as a society, just don’t like achievement all that much to begin with.
Am I nuts? Think back, not all that long ago, to a certain presidential election. If I recall correctly, one presidential candidate was vilified for his command of the English language and Ivy education. His competitor’s similar education (not to mention far more privileged upbringing) was only acceptable to the masses given his crappy grades and propensity for making up words.
Was being smart ever cool? Maybe not in our lifetimes. Just ask anyone who has ever considered putting a “my kid can beat up your honor student” bumper sticker on the back of his SUV. But I wish we could make it so for our children.
Because now that I have one–almost two–hell yes I want her to be proud of her smarts, her skills, her successes, whatever they may be. I think it starts with us being proud of our children, and, if we can possibly handle it, each other’s. I want so very much for women to be able to put aside our own insecurities and try to find happiness in the happiness of our fellow moms, even if that happiness is rooted in something super-cool that their child is doing that ours isn’t just yet.
Can we? Is it even possible?
Let’s start here. Tell me – what’s your kid up to these days? What’s the thing that you’ve been reluctant to share that makes you smile so hard you think your face will crack? What’s the thing that makes you think oh wow, I made this person. He came out of me and now…this!
Spill it. You know you want to.
Edited to add: I agree wholeheartedly with commenters who point out the distinction between “my child is God’s gift to the world” boasting and simply sharing accomplishments. My fear is that we–I–rarely do the latter for fear of sounding like it’s the former. Bragging is icky. But being able to express the awe that we all feel as we watch our children grow and evolve and achieve – that’s a pretty nice thing.