competitive moms like me

In ALL, INTROSPECTION, RAISING HOPS INTO BEERSby Stephanie Klein12 Comments


I don’t want to be this mother, and I caught myself doing it, adding to the very atmosphere and co-created relationship I hate. I heard myself competing with another mother.

I’m a Montessori psycho. I actually went to Michael’s, sorted beads, bought jewelry supplies—clippers that resemble medieval torture devices—and am teaching them the decimal system. (I heard myself do it the other day-exactly what I hate!) I was bragging about MYSELF, not my kids. I was beyond obnoxious.

“Yeah, I’m teaching them odds & evens.” What is wrong with me?! Why would I do that? Clearly, I’m insecure. I feel like there’s some race, and I want to win it, but of course there’s no race. In fact, it’s the opposite, right? “It all goes by so fast,” so savor it, don’t race through it.

When conversations like that happen between mothers, it’s not even about the kids. It’s about the parenting. I want to believe I’m doing all that I can, but why would I say it aloud? I know I do what I can, know what I do, and that should be enough. I shouldn’t need to broadcast it on the bragging channel.

Why would I offer that up in conversation? Yes, she was telling me how her daughter reads full books, and it—I hate to admit this—hit a nerve. An old nerve. Because I’ve already made peace with this. Or have I? It’s amazing I can walk at all when I’m always tripping over my ego.

Hey, at least I’m aware. Next time I hear myself starting in, I’m going to ask my poor victim to smack my ass, to remind me that I’m being one. Because, truly, I don’t want to be this. I refuse to turn into this.

I will say this though. I genuinely enjoy teaching them math. Let me rephrase. I enjoy teaching them anything hands-on, anything visual. While I try to make practicing writing their letters and numbers fun, it’s hard work, and it takes a lot of patience, on everyone’s part. I try window crayons and markers, drawing in sand, finger paint, chalk, oil pastels, colored soap on bathtub walls. I try, my God, I try. But math is easier for me to teach—oh, the irony!—because it usually involves food. Baking is math heaven. So, there’s my excuse. By the way, evens & odds are very easy to teach to twins. I’ll post a video. Or not.

Comments

  1. I think you are being too hard on yourself. Sounds like you love what you do for your children and for you- as it should be. Maybe stop analyzing yourself and questioning your motivations so much? You won’t turn into “that mother.” From what I have read on your blog, your heart is too much in the right place. You sound like a great mom.

  2. “It’s amazing I can walk at all when I’m always tripping over my ego.” haha LOVE this.

    I admire your honesty with yourself so much. One reason I love reading your blogs is because you motivate me. This is a perfect example … you are always trying to be the best you can be, and although here you are being a little too hard on yourself, it comes from a good place. Your twins are lucky to have you as a mother, Stephanie!

  3. Did I tell you about the time I attended my youngest daughter’s ‘parents of the gifted’ ‘International Baccalaureate Degree’ preen, show-off and who can be the most self-centered, show-offey, stuck-up, egotistical, narcissistic bitch-fest?

    I did that last year (thank god she’s graduating from high school and I hope to NEVER darken the halls of another pre-college school in my life).

    I was sitting there with her in the library as the meeting was getting underway – answering e-mails – when I became acutely aware of the hideous parents surrounding me. This was NOT a meeting about their children – this was a meeting all about THEM. It was vile.

    “Myyyyy daughter is so advanced, well, and she never procrastinates – will it be okay if she handed in her (year-long) project 6 months early?” (see daughter squirm). And this “Sooooo…this is more like an undergraduate thesis project that I completed at Hahhhhvard. Is it okay if I get my colleagues to assist my son with this project”…see son shrink in chair).

    Holy shit. When we were in the car driving home I was like “honey…if you want to do this – have a blast. If you don’t – fine with me. I was a horrible student, and I don’t care what you decide, but I promise I will not, under any circumstance, fill your bathroom mirror with inspirational quotes, deadlines of your homework, nor will I ever, ever nag you to get your work done. I will sympathize if you’re tired, I will make your meals, but you will be a civilized human being in my home.” Love you. Proud of you. No matter what. Period.

  4. Did I tell you about the time I attended my youngest daughter’s ‘parents of the gifted’ ‘International Baccalaureate Degree’ preen, show-off and who can be the most self-centered, show-offey, stuck-up, egotistical, narcissistic bitch-fest?

    I did that last year (thank god she’s graduating from high school and I hope to NEVER darken the halls of another pre-college school in my life).

    I was sitting there with her in the library as the meeting was getting underway – answering e-mails – when I became acutely aware of the hideous parents surrounding me. This was NOT a meeting about their children – this was a meeting all about THEM. It was vile.

    “Myyyyy daughter is so advanced, well, and she never procrastinates – will it be okay if she handed in her (year-long) project 6 months early?” (see daughter squirm). And this “Sooooo…this is more like an undergraduate thesis project that I completed at Hahhhhvard. Is it okay if I get my colleagues to assist my son with this project”…see son shrink in chair).

    Holy shit. When we were in the car driving home I was like “honey…if you want to do this – have a blast. If you don’t – fine with me. I was a horrible student, and I don’t care what you decide, but I promise I will not, under any circumstance, fill your bathroom mirror with inspirational quotes, deadlines of your homework, nor will I ever, ever nag you to get your work done. I will sympathize if you’re tired, I will make your meals, but you will be a civilized human being in my home. Love you. Proud of you. No matter what. Period.”

    1. 3 Teens: Seriously, when are you going to start your own blog? I adore your comments! And you are absolutely correct, those meetings and such are so dramatic and full of egos that it can be difficult to sit through.

      Did your daughter go through with the program?

      1. Hey Kim…thank you – you’re sweet.

        Yep – little daughter did pursue (is getting) that IB/Honors degree, as did eldest son. Little daughter is graduating this spring with more honors than I even knew existed and just got notified of a full-ride scholarship at our University. I would like to say here and now – it is not about me. Okay – so I gave consistent support, understanding, tolerance (and intolerance) of bullshit and drama and underlying, overlying, permeating, complete love…but that’s a mom’s job. It’s all about her…she’s amazing, and she’s doing it.

        It’s funny – some kids are destined for scholastic distinction – some are not. My eldest and youngest are academic rock-stars…but middle daughter can make a prom dress out of duct tape faster than you can say ‘international baccalaureate degree’. What matters so much more to me is the people they’re becoming. I will give a recent example of each…

        My sweet boy (21)…so busy at college, maintaining a 4.0 and an honors scholarship, made sure to come home to shovel my driveway tonight so I didn’t come from a trip and have to drive into a mess. I didn’t even see him. He checks in via text…’hey mom – hope you’re having a great day, I’m so proud of the work you’re doing’. He watches over his sisters and me – quietly setting an example of greatness. Every once in a while he will say something like “you are the inspiration of my life, mom…thank you”. I mean… Really?

        Middle girl (19)…also away at college (with an honors scholarship), came home when little one got her wisdom teeth out last month. She waved hi to me as she dropped her luggage in the front room, bee-lined to her sister’s room, and when she realized the pain was too overwhelming, slipped off her coat, grabbed the ice-packs from the freezer, and crawled into bed right next to her sister and crooned…I mean – I’ve almost never seen love like that…*crooned* healing words…held her til her lortab kicked in, and then tucked her in, turned on her nightlight and then – finally – came in to tell me the updates of her sweet/interesting life. I mean…Really? Damn….

        Little one (17) – always the most driven among them. A perfectionist to a point that it has worried me upon occasion. I mean – who studies like that? Nominated for homecoming queen, but didn’t win. Nominated for sterling scholar – just missed it. Nominated for early admission to an Ivy league college…didn’t quite get there. Man…watching her beat herself up over her near-perfection is maddening and frustrating. But – to come home tonight to find her curled up by the fireplace reading her Jane Austen, unwinding and not-texting because ‘there comes a time, mom, when you simply have to ‘be still’. I can’t be my best if I’m too stressed’…well – to hear my words out of her sweet, brilliant mouth…priceless.

        If I’d stayed with my ex – would the darlings be happy, healthy and whole near-adults? Maybe. Maybe not. I think the key is that since the time they were wee – when I left that toxic climate of a marriage – I made my home a place of peace, love, calm, and kindness. It was easier to do alone (in my case). We read, we talked, we didn’t fuss, we had good music, we enjoyed togetherness but not forced and not a ton, we laughed, we grew. All of us. The 3 teens and I grew up into a group of people that I can hardly believe exist.

        Quite an amazing ride so far. And I’m highly aware that once you put all these good things out to the universe, that it will knock you on your ass. Maybe I believe that. But I believe even more that every bit of goodness we can put out into the universe will come right back at us.

        Courage and strength (as my mom says)…courage and strength.

  5. The fact that you are teaching them ANYTHING makes you an AMAZING mother. I am shocked at my mother friends who think that they aren’t smart enough, aren’t organized enough, don’t have enough time, etc to teach their kids anything beyond letters, numbers, and colors. One friend said to me “What the hell am I paying the pre-school for?” She needs to be slapped on the ass, not you, my dear. And extra points for teaching them math! Can you help me with fractions? ;-)

  6. LOL at Kristen’s comment. That was my parents – they didn’t teach me letters or numbers or writing before Kindergarten. They always felt the school would do the best job of teaching. I do remember coming home and saying “Lucy knows how to read!” and that’s when they said, you’ll learn in school soon enough. I was jealous b/c they read all the time.

    I was an honors student, advanced placement all the way, so they didn’t slow me down too much. I hear that all the gains made in the early years largely disapear by 3rd or 4th grade, so is it worth it???? Just enjoy your kids, love them, and make learning fun if you must, but let them be…..kids.

  7. Coincidentally enough, last night was the awards dinner for the smart kids. When I say I hate these things…I’m not exaggerating. But my youngest darling was called out to make a speech.

    Thankfully, they only called her out 12 hours in advance, knowing that if they did it further ahead, she’d fret herself into a coma.

    Yesterday afternoon, she came by my office because it’s close to school, to do her work and to practice her speech. She was so earnest..so dear…oh…precious beyond words. I gave her a couple of pointers about public speaking. She assured me that my ideas were lame. I told her that when accepting her award, she should definitely acknowledge me as her inspiration…and she snorted root beer through her nose. It was the funniest, most perfect distillation of everything I’ve ever said…it’s not about me. I have merely been the incubator of this astonishing person who will go forth in the world – kicking butt and taking names – I am the pass-through person…what a gift.

    Meanwhile – as I have passed these children through me – I continue to define/refine myself. My identity is clarified and intensified through them. Do I live for them? Nope. Do I live through them? Hm. Nope. Do I love to live in their reflected magnificent light? Yep. I can hardly believe how incredible each one of them has become. It’s awe inspiring.

    Hard to put into words how grateful I am that I stuck to my guns…I buckled down and raised the babies in a calm, wholesome sphere of goodness. Wrenching them away from badness was hard…at the moment seemed selfish…but to now stand in their presence…god. Really?

    BTW, her speech was brilliant. So poised, collected, not affected…loved standing in her light.

  8. love your ideas for teaching the kids. if you haven’t already, try spraying shaving cream on the counter and let them practice letters/numbers. make sure to get the non-menthol kind otherwise they could get burning eyes. have fun.

    p.s. can you invite us to pinterest? saw a new article that said that it is an “invitation only” site?

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