His little face lit up with excitement and pride. Skidding towards me with a look of pure glee…
“Look Mummy, the class Bear is coming to stay at our house!”
The Bear looked at me with a hint of smugness, all set for his new adventure. I mentally start to evaluate the weekend activities. Where the hell were we going that would impress The Bear? Maybe the trip around the supermarket might need to be scrapped. Can I stick him in some trunks for swim class? Is The Bear ‘playing’ in the park enough? My thoughts are interrupted by Boy 2 demanding a ‘snack’ for The Bear. I thrust a chocolate biscuit in their vague direction and a 2nd for Boy 2. He’s already a bad influence.
I flick thorough the journal that has been lovingly filled in by previous families. Good grief, this Bear has a better social life than me! A cuddle with a child at the latest theatre show. Picking up a medal at a dance competition. Even a bloody trip to Lapland to meet Santa! Sh*t, maybe the park won’t cut it.
I then stop. What the hell is the matter with me? I was being dragged into a game that I didn’t want to be a part of. I was not going to try to get the one upMUMship!
It all starts from birth. “Oh, I had a natural birth”, “Pain relief? Oh no, I wanted to feel the experience”, “I had a homebirth and breathed the baby out whilst having an orgasm”…. I think of my gruesome blood bath and post-traumatic stress and slink away to the corner of the room to hang out with the other ‘failures’.
“Oh yes, little Billy is exclusively breastfed, it’s tough but so worth it”… A mix of boast and martyr – the very best of ‘one upMUMship’.
It moves on to when they started talking, crawling, walking, sleeping through. “Little Billy is just so bright and mature, so much more advanced than most 1-year-olds” as he dribbles over his rattle in the pram.
Competitive parenting isn’t anything new. There is a surprising number of mums who love boasting about how superior their children are. With my mum’s generation, this was conducted in playgrounds and street corners. Cavewomen probably bragged about how great their child was with a spear. Yet, now this ridiculous game is played out on social media. Photos of smug kids with thinly veiled comments of parental smugness “So proud of my little Billy. Man of the Match and 20 goals. I can hardly believe it!”
Self-editing is rife. Holiday snaps are an endless stream of happy, smiling children playing on the beach. The reality? Children in hysterics because they don’t like the feel of sand. Tantrums over the colour of their bucket. Tired and miserable devils throwing ice cream whilst you try to ‘enjoy’ a G&T.
Fine, you win. Your child is better than mine. I don’t want to play anymore.
Maybe people feel insecure, need to justify their parental position or genuinely forget that people don’t need to hear about every achievement their own child makes. We all need to share our small glories but, to be honest, I would rather hear about their kid’s funny one-liners, embarrassing incidents or how crap their day has been.
I close the journal. The Bear is going back to basics. A trip to B&Q to buy some light bulbs and then on to MacDonald’s for a Happy Meal.
At least this way, he is unlikely to visit again!