Here’s what happened. You got the letter that says your child was admitted to the Gifted Program (or the traveling team, or the best preschool in your town, or Harvard). You’re filled with pride, of course. But you know what will happen when your friends find out. Your bubble will be burst. Your joy will be overtaken by other people’s envy.
This doesn’t seem fair. Why can’t they be happy along with you? Why does their resentment have to ruin everything?
Well, of course, they could be happy along with you. This would be the noble thing to do. This is what you would do in their place, wouldn’t you? … Wouldn’t you?
Maybe not. Everyone wants his own child to shine. Everyone’s child deserves accolades. But there aren’t enough accolades to go around. And, quite frankly, most of the acclaim seems to go to the same kids, over and over.
The truth is that some children seem to attract awards like a magnet. The same kids who are in the gifted program win the science fair (of course!) but they also take the blue ribbon in the art show, land the leading role in the school play, are written up in the papers for their volunteer work, are voted the most-good-looking, and are the star on whatever team they play for. Some kids seem to have it all.
And that gets old after a while, for everyone else. Not only that, but there’s an odd thing going on: even if it seems like this is your child’s first award (finally!), other kids and their parents wanted it too. So even if it doesn’t appear to you that your child always wins, even one win can make others think he leads a golden life.
Competition does strange things to people. And competition involving what matters most to us – our children and their happiness – makes everyone act strangely. What can you do?
- Talk about your child’s accomplishments only if someone else brings them up. Don’t volunteer the fact that Suzette took first in whatever she took first in. Wait for someone to mention it.
- Be humble. When someone does say they read about Suzette in the papers, join in on the admiration but only in a wondering tone. If your child is amazing, let yourself be amazed.
- Avoid comparisons. The moment you even think, “My child is so much better than your child” you’re doomed. This thought will be obvious to everyone.
- Shut up quickly. Do not go on and on about how hard Suzette prepared for the competition, how things went against her early but she rallied, and finally how she pulled ahead and was bathed in glory. Don’t do it. Answer others’ questions and follow with a question of your own – about their children.
- Be honest. Your child’s success really isn’t something you did yourself. Don’t take credit for it or puff yourself up over it. Accept others’ admiration graciously and with sincere thanks.
- Be tolerant of others’ resentment. Be aware of others’ feelings. And if they never mention your child’s good fortune, it doesn’t mean they’re seething with envy. They might not even have noticed what happened for your child. They will have been caught up in their own children’s doings.
Finally, keep in mind that parenting really isn’t a competitive sport. Gold medals and letters of acceptance are wonderful but they don’t actually mean much in the long run.
In the long run, it’s getting along with others that counts.
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.