Part of my parenting philosophy is to try not to view motherhood as a competitive sport. I know there are moms who complain about other moms competing in the “Mommy Olympics,” going above and beyond the call of duty to do all sorts of extras with their offspring that make the rest of us feel inferior.
My attitude is that we are all going to excel in some areas of parenting, because we all have things we do well and enjoy. So if someone else is a little more into doing crafts with their kids, I try to remember that I probably read more books with my kids, and it all balances out. I try not to find other parents’ accomplishments threatening, and assume that no-one is threatened my mine.
It’s unlikely anyone is threatened by me. Most of the time, I’m doing well to keep up with the basics of parenting, much less the competitive events. This is especially true since I went back to work and the kids started school. I think of myself as a well-organized person — at work I’m almost fanatically organized — but my organization skills are not up to the task of having two children in elementary school. I write everything down, but even then it’s a challenge to keep up with which homework is due on what day, which papers I have to sign and send back, what milk money they have to bring, which days are school lunch days, which days are pizza, which are ice cream, and what I have to pack for each. Not to mention the clothing issues attached to gym days and swim days. Any morning my kids go out the door with the right homework, money and attire is a gold-medal day in my books.
But just to keep us parents on our toes, schools like to throw in some extra-special themes and projects. This week we had lots and lots of special events. It is, of course, Valentine’s Day on Wednesday, which means child-signed Valentine cards for each kid in the class. Here is one area where I do find Mommy-Olympic resentment creeping in a little, because I know my children will come home tomorrow with not just a bagful of Valentine cards, but also three or four little extras–candies or cookies or little bags of treats wrapped in pink lace with ribbons — from moms who just had to go that extra mile. Each little foil-wrapped chocolate seems like a silent reproach: “What, you only sent them with cards?”
Of course it’s not enough that it’s Valentine’s, oh no. It’s also Teacher Appreciation Week; parents were encouraged to bring desserts to school for teachers to enjoy in the staffroom. The lower grades also celebrate the 100th day of school, which falls right before Valentine’s Day. This year Emma’s class had to fill out a booklet about the number 100, and each child had to make a poster of 100 objects (we did macaroni, and Emma, of her own volition, wrote a little poem to go inside a macaroni frame — which some other mother might interpret as being over-the-top on my part, but it was entirely her idea). Finally, there was an optional activity — children could decorate a 100th-day themed T-shirt.
Normally anything “optional” falls right off my radar. This time, however, by an incredible freak of nature that had nothing to do with any awareness on my part, I had in my possession not only a plain white child’s T-shirt, but also two packages of fabric markers. So last night Emma and I sat down and decorated a T-shirt, and while she did the lion’s share of the work I made a batch of brownies to send to school
She was quite proud of her T-shirt and looked extremely cute in it. It was probably my one and only time ever qualifying for an event in the Mommy Olympics, and I’d like to say that I followed my principles and put aside all envy and competitiveness from within my heart, and just delighted in my child and her happiness. But I am shamed to tell you that when I brought her to school I looked around — I did — to see how many other first-graders had home-decorated 100th Day T-shirts! Because, of course, I had to know how many other Mommies were as good as I was.
Oh, all right, since you asked. She was one of three. And I think her shirt was the best. But you know, that’s just my humble, entirely uncompetitive opinion.