Are you IN on the competition? This "Parenting Olympics" we've created as a society? This culture in which we, as parents, are in a constant battle to be the better parent. The mom who bakes the homeroom snack from scratch or the dad who is available for every single after-school function and glares with eyes of disappointment when you hear of other parents who are just not as "involved" as you are?
If you're anything like me, you may fall into the other category of parents. The ones who try as we might, can't make it to every single school recital or who is a cooking catastrophe in the kitchen and should never attempt anything but store-bought brownies for the kindergarten class party. I know a lot of times, we can look at the achievements of other parents, even those we have friendships with and compare "parental accomplishments". Sometimes we don't measure up. Other times we become prideful in the fact that our children are better behaved, trendier dressed, and developmentally on-track compared to that parent's children. When did the business of raising little people become such a competition?
A few days ago, I was driving home from picking up the kiddo at school. In front of me was a man on a motorcycle. As I followed him through an intersection, we passed another motorcycle going the opposite direction. As they passed each other, the second rider raised his hand to the guy in front of me in a show of solidarity. The man in front of me returned the way. The simple fact that they were both driving motorcycles was enough for them to feel a connection and greet each other that way.
I pulled into my driveway a few minutes later and remembered the exchange with envy. The two motorcycle riders weren't sizing each other up, glaring judgingly at the type of bike the other had or what technique he was using to maneuver the streets. They were linked by motorcycle experience alone. Imagine be accepted, greeted---SEEN!---simply because of the vehicle you were driving. It occurred to me in that moment that in a perfect world, we parents should do the same. Instead of judging and comparing on who's children display a better representation of our superior parenting, what if we simply acknowledged each other as fellow strugglers on this journey of parenthood? As we pass each other in our minivans with our mutual silhouettes of kids in the backseats, our windows revealing the messy undersides of their sticker collages, we should make eye contact, raise our hands, and wave just to salute the other person to indicate that we SEE each other and that we are on the same team.
I know, I know. All that parental waving and smiling on the road might result in a spate of minivan collisions. But on our way to playgroup, the grocery store, or the park, we aren't exactly tearing up the streets, are we? So maybe we can avoid all the fender benders and just be a little bit more aware that there need to be more acceptance among parents and not so much competition. We need to be more open-minded and non-judgemental. We don't have it all together, and we shouldn't rag on other parents who struggle with the same things that we do. We should be lifting each other up, in prayer and in affirmation. Let's teach our kiddos by example that no one has it all-together; no parent, no child, no peer. We all need encouragement. We all need unity. No competition needed here. We're all on the same team.