Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Competitive Parenting

Last week, I dropped M off at preschool. When I picked her up, there was a new poster hung on the wall next to the classroom door--a progress chart. It had listed, along the left side, names of each of the children in her Younger Twos class. Along the top of the chart were the names of various two-year-old skills: "ABCs", "Shapes", "Numbers", that sort of thing. Many of the children had multiple stars. M had only one.

I stood, waiting for the mother ahead of me to collect her daughter so I could enter the classroom and get M--and then hurry on home for naptime, which I think we all know is Sacred. The Other Mother was having an animated conversation with the teacher. She--the Mother--seemed very concerned about WHICH gold stars Darling Daughter had received, since she was certain that her girl knew her ABCs and 123s, and proceeded to remind the teacher of that at length. AT LENGTH.

Seriously? M had one star. I was deeply unconcerned, since I don't need gold stars to tell me my kid is awesome. I also know she knows her ABCs and shapes, and that she DOESN'T know her numbers, and a gold star one way or another isn't going to define either her intelligence or her abilities. It made me laugh at how overly concerned so many parents get, how competitive they can be about the silliest things. It's Big vs Small, people, not the SATs. I felt so smug, so certain that I was above All That in a way the Other Mother wasn't.

Yesterday, when I picked M up, she had all but two columns filled with starts, and for one column, she had TWO stars. I came home feeling smug, confident that my child was clearly Better and Smarter. Then I alternated that smugness with berating myself for being a hypocrite. Notice I wasn't able to shake the smugness altogether. Did I mention she had TWO stars in one column??

It seems even when you grow up, gold stars still have some hypnotic power over you that causes you to lose all reason. For reals.


Alexis said...

My feeling is that for pre-school is for children to learn to play together without hitting and biting each other! I am opposed to pre-school gold stars.

dana said...

I couldn't agree more. Well stated. And sheesh! (to the mother who was going on and on about her kid's stars). The older I get the more I realize how many different parenting styles are out there.

Jamie said...

I would completely succumb to the stars. It is a sad hard cold fact that overwhelms my rational self. Let us be thankful we haven't seen that at Toddler Monster's school yet.

Your BabbyDaddy said...

The head of our law office used to put gold stars on our door after we won at trial. I wasn't upset to see this tradition end, but, I must admit, I was excited when I won a big case and expected yellow construction paper on my door. Perhaps it made up for the dearth of gold stars I got in the "conduct" column during elementary school.

Kari said...

This brings to mind the old star-belly Sneetches. Even as I kid, I never understood what was so motivating about stickers?!