Observations of a Husband/Dad/Math Geek/Writer/Soap Box Owner/Wine Lover

Dealing With Parent Competition

Virtually every new parent goes through a myriad of emotions as the life-changing event that is children unfolds. These emotions range from ecstasy to unbelievable tiredness. One such emotion that develops over time is pride: you witness miracles every day as the little joy of your life first sits and then begins to explore, all whilst developing his or her own unique, wonderful personality.

Pride, as you may be aware, prominently sits on the list that is the ‘seven deadly sins,’ and for good reason too. Often cited as the original and most serious of the sins, warnings ring loud to avoid this grave moral misdemeanour. For most parents, humility rules, and they avoid the temptation of claiming superiority, only occasionally transgressing by accident or excess enthusiasm. Conversely, a minority of parents choose to ignore the perils and appear to embrace the sin openly, flouting their unpalatable pride in their creation.

There exists no rule of qualification to the pride club. It manifests itself from within certain parents whatever the location or topic of discussion. The likelihood that you will experience it at some point is relatively high. Whether amongst close friends or attending a post-natal group, the odds suggest that at least one over-eager, ambitious parent will drone on and on about how astonishingly brilliant their respective child is, developing at such a rapid rate that the milestone chart indicators need to be revised to maintain pace.

As ‘competitive parent syndrome,’ or CPS as I like to refer to it, reveals itself early, do not be surprised when you come across it. The moment your offspring has vacated the birth canal, it is bound to start. You will begin to recognise the sources: those of a competitive nature, possibly because of a hard-upbringing and a resultant perpetual desire to place themselves above everyone else, or the aloof in our midst intent on belittling others with their critical and boastful nature.

Those of a CPS persuasion will throw questions at you on a variety of topics. For example, is your baby able to sit unaided yet? The question posed, they gleefully wait for your response in the negative and promptly (complete with smug, patronising grins) inform you that their little brat has accomplished this landmark already.

My advice is to avoid engagement and argument, since one skill of the average CPS sufferer lies in arming and offloading retorts like a government minister. Should an urge lead you to take them on in battle, prepare yourself for a long, arduous journey. You will tread a slippery slope, as any answer you put forward meets an expression of shock until composure prevails, and they up the ante further. Consider again, if you will, the question of your baby managing to sit without help. Answer in the positive to this gem, and face the reply that their little tyke finds this skill rudimentary and is now contemplating walking. This truly is a miracle, given that moments earlier the ability to prop himself up whilst sitting on his backside was considered exceptional. Now in the space of a conversation, the development juggernaut has jumped forwards by approximately six months. It makes you wonder why they do not regularly engage other parents to hasten their child’s development further.
How do you cope with CPS? Fortunately, two choices exist, and both are remarkably simple in their nature. The first option would be to ignore it and perhaps employ the tactic of diversion. This method largely achieves its objective by frustrating the propagator, as they desperately try to steer the conversation back to their child. Second, which is my preferred approach, is to calmly engage the bloodthirsty antagonist, look them straight in the eye, and flippantly answer the competitive-natured question with the statement, ‘No, my child cannot, for he is an idiot.’ Whatever was the milestone in question, the result of your response quells the enemy with alarming ease. The shockwaves caused by this derogatory assessment of your child will provide ample time to leave the scene as the CPS instigator is left bewildered by the lack of your ambition and competitiveness. The look on their face is priceless, and the added benefit is your future protection from any other similar advances. The only addendum to this piece of advice that I would add is be certain your child never overhears you utter the phrase. Otherwise the result of your psychological punishment is probably going to result in far worse outcomes than CPS ever would.

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