Everybody Gets a Gold Star

Parenting is demanding work, made only more demanding by the pressures of keeping up with the other parents. What, no one told you that parenting was a competition? Just wait until you take your kid to your first playgroup or to daycare.

It’s easier when they’re little, as you have plenty of potential milestones to brag about. “John just started cruising!” “Oh? I guess that’s okay — I mean, Charlie now walks on his own unassisted.” “Well, my Patrick can feed himself.” As they get older, the milestones get further apart and less impressive. You start dreaming up things for your child to do. Can he recite the alphabet backwards? What about count by twos to 100? Once you’ve burned through the flashy-but-not-that-hard-to-teach tricks, what do you do? I’ve been trying to teach Eli to recite Maxwell’s Equations, but he has trouble with them once I include the source terms.

Eventually you start grasping at straws, turning minor quirks of behavior into accomplishments rivalling those of Michaelangelo or Mozart. The other day I proudly told someone, “You should hear Eli turn everything into stories. ‘Once upon a time I go to my room and I get a book and once upon a time I read that book.'”

This attitude, that everything he does is amazing, is seeping into Eli, I’m afraid. At dinner last night, he narrated his eating. “I stick a fork in the strawberry and I pick up the strawberry and I put it in my mouth and I eat it.” When he finished doing just that he lifted his hands and said, “Yay! I made it!”

7 thoughts on “Everybody Gets a Gold Star

  1. As the parent of a kid who started walking at 20 months, I dig. Last summer when she was 1-1/2 I would take her to this indoor gym where babies under age one would be running around, kicking soccer balls, doing gymnastics, slam-dunking, and breakdancing, and Iris would be happily crawling along. Didn’t bother her at all, of course.

  2. As a side note, I can in fact recite the alphabet backwards. But only in English. I’m working on French. 😉

  3. Eli’s ability to recite the alphabet backwards would help in those situations where law enforcement thinks he’s, you know, inebriated. 😉

    Teach him the prime numbers below 100. That’s a neat trick!

  4. A friend of mine from college has a son who is two weeks younger than mine. I am trying very hard to not continually compare, but it’s hard. We talk fairly regularly, and whenever she mentions something her son does, I am happy for her, but I am also mentally checking that my son does, too! We’ve been pretty good about not being overly competitive with them, but I definitely have to tell myself on a regular basis to not compare, and to not be the kind of parent that says “He can do it. Why can’t you?” At least being aware of what we are doing might help us be better at what we say and do.

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