Monday, July 23, 2012

On Mompetition

Vermont, Summer 2011

There I was, ready to work out. I had on my yoga pants, my sneakers laced up, 14-week old Henry was sound asleep in his stroller. I was pumped to be exercising again, and I loved that for the past few weeks I had been able to attend a particular "Mommy and Me" class held in my town. The first classes had gone well and without anything notable happening (if you don’t count getting my shoelace stuck in the wheel of another woman’s stroller. Yeah.). But then, out of the blue, Mrs. My-Baby-Is-The-Number-One-Baby-Ever decided she wanted to be buddies.

It started out innocently enough; small talk, quick chats while we pushed our babies around in their strollers. “Oh, what does your husband do?” “Do you miss teaching?” “Do you plan on having more kids?” I didn’t mind the chatter too much. It’s not like this was an extremely grueling workout– I mean, we were pushing strollers– so it was a nice break in the monotony of working out in the same half-gymnasium, three days a week.

Then, one unassuming Wednesday morning, it began. I mentioned something in regards to how Henry had been sleeping well recently, and what an amazing thing it’s been getting a full seven hours of sleep in a row. “WELL MY BABY SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT FROM DAY ONE, EVEN BEFORE SHE WAS BORN, LIKE IN MY BELLY SHE WOULD SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. SHE SLEEPS ALL DAY TOO, JUST SO YOU KNOW. YEAH, SHE’S THE BEST SLEEPER EVER.”

Um.

I responded with a “Good, great! That’s wonderful,” and pushed my stroller a little faster so she’d maybe get the hint that one, I didn’t care to compete with her, and two, it’s really weird to yell full sentences at someone when you’re right next to them.

As the next few weeks went by, the mom-petitiveness escalated (I learned that her baby was well on its way to being fluent in sign language and Spanish, could pee on command, and was on the road to becoming a little “Doogie Howser”), but she finally backed off when she realized I wouldn’t engage.

Now that I was privy to this form of competition though, I noticed it everywhere. Being a bloggger, and more so a “Mommy blogger,” as most would call it, I started seeing it in the comments of my friends’ blogs, in Twitter conversations, and especially on Facebook. And I kind of hated it.

By nature I’m a slightly competitive person. I grew up playing sports and yeah, I like to win. It’s easy to get sucked into competition with others, and if you’re a Mom, you may have noticed it started way back when you were pregnant. With social media seeping it’s way into so many corners of our world, it’s hard not to see someone else and compare. Pregnant women talk about how much or how little weight they’ve gained, if they’ve dared to eat sushi or maybe have a glass of wine, if they plan on natural childbirth or medicated. It’s easy to judge, and to start to feel inadequate when comparing yourself to everyone else.

Now that Henry is 20 months old, it’s a whole new world of mom-petition. And I’ve decided that the best way to offset these (annoying) women is to just give them what they want– the ego stroke, the coddle, the pat on the back. Sometimes though it’s hard. There have been many times I’ve wanted to step up to the plate to bat for my kid in this non-existent game of “Who’s the Better Mom/Best Kid Ever/etc. etc.” But outside of getting into the mom-petition ring and throwing down baby stats, there are some things that have worked for me when faced with a crazy mama.

1. Combat the mom-petition with a compliment. “Oh wow, Lila was potty trained by 12 months? That’s just awesome, you’re a great Mom.” (Even though you’d rather say something along the lines of, you’re a liar and a weirdo, I don’t care about your kid’s potty training time line.) But with the compliment there’s not really anywhere else to go, and it kind of stops the other Mom in her tracks. My challenge here though, is fighting off the sarcastic edge that often threatens to come through.

2. Lie for fun. “Oh wow, Lila was potty trained by 12 months? My Henry was potty trained from hmm, I guess it was 9 months. The doctor said she’d never seen anything like it. I can give you some tips if you’d like, for your next slow potty-trainer.” This one isn’t a good idea whatsoever, but at least it’s entertaining.

3. Be honest, and ask for tips. Then shut it down (or prepare to be there for hours). “Oh wow, Lila was potty trained by 12 months? Henry definitely isn’t even close yet. What were some things that worked for you?” This method is awesome, but it’s a slippery slope, because more often than not, Mom-petitive Mommies love to give advice. If you take a step in that direction you may have gotten on an advice train you can’t really get off of, so tread carefully.

Overall though, just know that women who feel the need to engage in mom-petition have always been the type to be competitive with others. In high school I’m sure they wanted to be the #1 whatever it was they were, after high school it was the same, and now they can channel their hidden yet obvious insecurities into attempting to make themselves feel like the better mom by one-upping you. Whether it’s bragging that their four-year old still breastfeeds, wearing their kid’s early teething like a medal, or even making sure you know that they are more stressed out and tired than you, it’s going to happen. The best thing you can do is do is just realize that you are doing what’s best for your baby, and you don’t need anyone else’s validation to do so.

*This one of the many pieces I'll be re-sharing here over the next year. This originally published on Hello Giggles, but since I am not writing for them anymore, it's important to me to have all of my writing in one place. If this is the second time you've seen this, I hope you didn't mind too much! Thank you for reading!

53 comments:

  1. My son is now 9.5 years and it still happens, now its all about numeracy and literacy scores, I laugh and say as long as he's happy and try's his best then im happy :)(but inside im smiling and so proud as he is way ahead, polite and smart)but I will not take part in the conversation of the competitive parents, yuck!
    I like your style Danielle xxx

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  2. The scariest thing is that it happens everywhere and I get to hear all those things even though I'm not a mom yet! (1st year into the marriage and getting a lot of questions about my "plans in that matter") I just wish that people could enjoy themselves more and stop thinking about how this or that looks in the eyes of others..We are different and that's where the fun is!

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  3. LOVE THIS! I don't have many mommy friends and the few I have encountered are exactly like that, trying to constantly out mom me. When I meet someone like that I usually just retreat. Not my cup of tea.

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    1. I have that problem too, it makes making friends so much harder than it should be!

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  4. I tell my pre-natal yoga students that their baby will not sleep through the night for a good few years. It may happen once or twice - but don't get attached. Of course, I'm exaggerating but I want them to stop worrying about the sleep and just take everything one day at a time. Competition is rife and it's so incredibly unhealthy. I sometimes wonder if those mumas that rave about success are actually crumbling under their own pressure. x

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  5. I really loved this post! I have noticed that agreeing with the other moms, "stroking their ego" is definitely the best way to put a stop to it. It's sad because often it happens when the kids are around and can hear their mom's competing and boy do they learn by example! Such a great post. I love reading your blog :)

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  6. Maybe I'm one of those moms. Haha. I don't think I brag about my kids. I know they aren't the smartest or most advanced children. But if someone is talking about their baby's sleep pattern I will talk about my baby's sleep pattern. I don't want a pat on the back. I want a chance to relate and talk kids.

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    1. Hi Annie!

      I'm sure you aren't "one of those" Moms! I think discussion is awesome- I'm just talking about when it takes a turn for the worse! :)

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  7. Ooh, I missed this one over on HG, I'm glad you reposted. Totally cracked me up because I've been around women like this...and I don't even have a child yet! I think you definitely handled that situation with grace and maturity (which are obviously two things that poor one-upper is lacking). Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Hahaha.this reminds me of so many moms I've meet and a big reason why I quite going to the moms group I was in. It's so hard to find friends who are moms when they're like that. I didn't even think of it until I read this post, its so true lol.

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  9. I have a lot of friends who are moms and we talk about our kids a lot, but I haven't encountered a braggy tone yet which I am thankful for. Sure, we talk about what stages our kids are at, but as far as I can tell, there isn't any competition involved. I'm sure it's annoying, but for someone who hasn't experienced someone like that yet, it almost sounds kind of fun to meet a bragger. I wouldn't mind messing with them a bit :)

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  10. Aw this made me sad and nervous ha ha. I've always liked the idea of doing Mommy-and-Me classes and things of the like someday but this is the third time in the past week I've seen/heard something about this "mompetiveness." I tend to always get stuck working with/living near the kind of women who want to compete with EVERYTHING about me... clothes, hair, jobs, lawns, husbands, whatever. Maybe I should bookmark these tips!

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    1. Oh gosh Sara do NOT let this deter you. I wrote this last year and since then I've attended so many amazing classes and "Mommy and Me" type activities, and have met some wonderful women who are now my close friends. This was just a funny anecdote and something I dealt with on a small scale. For me it is absolutely not the norm! I'm sure you'll find that when you are a Mom most of the other Moms are awesome too. But like anything, there are always a few that aren't!

      <3

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  11. I agree! I from time to time belong to one of those mommy boards. I Love the info you get and the friends to talk to but I find my self backing off when everyone starts comparing where their kids are at.I would start to worry to much about "why" wasnt my son doing that? So I have learned to back off, take time off, and just savor everyday and moment I have with my child!

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  12. Danielle, thanks so much for this! I am a new mama (my little guy is 6 months) Even when you try to avoid the competition, it seems to seep into everything & everywhere you go...sometimes I find myself comparing my babe with others and I freak out & give myself a good talking to & STOP! I'm lucky to have a few awesome friends with babies who are simply wonderful at offering supportive conversation & a safe place for each other to just rant & laugh at some of the silly things we have done as new moms & the cool things our babies are doing-competition free zone! But man, you are right-it all starts when you are pregnant & doesn't seem to subside. And I am so much more sensitive to the comments, unsolicited advice and stares I get from people regarding my baby-I just smile and go on with my day. We all know how rad our babies are!!!:)

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  14. Once I had this woman tell me how many cities and countries her six month old had been to. She wouldn't shut up about it and when she finally asked me what countries my seven month old had been to I told her "none...unless you count outer space as a country because he's been there. twice." She never spoke to me again.

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  15. This is the first piece of yours that I ever read, and that brought me to Sometimes Sweet the first time. I really liked your writing style and voice. Fortunately I don't feel as if I've come across any of "those moms". I think it would get the best of me because I kind of like the opportunity to brag on my girl. I agree with previous commenters who say that it's nice to exchange info, especially if you're a new mom and trying to figure out what's normal. Good advice on how to talk about your little ones with other mom's: remember that every kid is different. Different strengths and weaknesses, different paces, but all wonderful little people. :)

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  16. This had me cracking up! I'm not a mother yet, but I'm dreading dealing with these types of women! Thank you for the very amazing list of ways to deal, esp. #2...that one is incredible.

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  17. This is an awesome post, because I've been dealing with a LOT of this on Facebook, with people posting stuff in a really passive aggressive way. SOOO much bragging from people about their kids and it was really bringing me down. I now realize it's my own fault because I allow it to make me feel that way.

    Your tips for just "stroking the ego" is so true though - in many situations, not just the mom-petitions. I have a coworker who's constantly bragging about the most stupid stuff. She's exhausting. But I just feed her a little ego stroke and move on - she won't get to me!

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  18. funny story: my daughter and I attended a mommy and me swim class a few months ago. all the moms were super friendly and the instructor was wonderful; we both loved it! a few weeks in, my girlie got brave and decided to try going underwater. she did just fine, was able to hold her breath for a second or two but nothing crazy.

    well...the following week a new mommy and her daughter (same age as mine) joined our class. the daughter was a little scared but she warmed up after we sang a few songs. later on in the class the new mom saw me going under with my daughter and immediately she started firing off questions.. "she goes under?! how old is she?! how long has she been doing that?!" etc. i answered honestly, and said that she just went under for the first time the previous week. the mom gave me some weird looks, confirmed that my daughter was in fact, the same age as hers, and then walked away. not two seconds later i see her dunk her daughter under the water, who then came up hysterically crying! the poor kid was afraid of the water to begin with, and then you go ahead and do that? not only did i feel terrible for the little girl, i was in shock that someone could get so competetive over something so silly. needless to say, i stayed out of her way and kept my answers to her challenging questions short!

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  19. This is why I kinda feel like I never want to be friends with other moms. :/ When I become one, anyway. It scares me! I hate female competitive BS!

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  20. Yikes! Well, one day when I have children it will be an interesting experience...

    ♥ Naomi {Starry Eyes + Coffee Cups}

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  21. I have a really hard time being around competitive mothers. It is one thing to explain how your child is but to make unbelievable cases like the one you mentioned and make it seem like they are all that matters and that everyone else is messed up . . .is messed up. haha.

    When I am around competitive moms. . I'm just silent. Let them talk and let them watch and see. Turns out that many of the women I have met who are that way, aren't really confident in their parenting and seem to exalt themselves to feel better about their own failures without being honest about what is really up. They need to know that not everyone has it all together, nor will they ever. haha.

    One thing to realize is that first, your way of parenting is unique to your child who is an individual. Not all children are the same at all. They are so very different! What works for someone else doesn't mean it is going to work for you! That's what's so fun about motherhood!!

    That's really cool if a child is potty trained at a year old. In China, a lot of babies are trained by 3 months, but keep in mind they are also allowed to go on the sidewalk in the streets too (according to someone I am friends with who lived there for three years while teaching a school). My sons were each 3 years old in their first month as a 3 year old when potty trained. . .of course my 3 year old suffered with constipation which was VERY hard to handle for a while until the doctor suggested laxitives. haha. While my 5 year old hadn't ever a problem with that. Proof that all kids are different. I have a friend who's got 3 kids all under the age of 3 and the oldest who is nearly 3 potty trained himself at 2.5 years of age a week before she had birth to the third child. . .which was a blessing. As her friend I got really excited for her, but she had friends who were envious and then said "well. . .my kid did this. . ." to make it seem like they won. Why the competition?? Gah! sorry. I'm going on and on. haha.

    I find if anything, the coolest thing is encouraging one another as moms, instead of competing or thinking one is better than the other. I wish some moms would realize such things. We all fail in some area where someone else excels! That's okay!

    By the way, My name is Victoria. Nice to meet you. haha.
    http://justicepirate.com

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  22. I loved this. I found it even funnier as my daughter's name is Lila. Love, love, love it!

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  23. haha - that was GREAT! So very true. Some moms just amaze me!

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  24. Thanks for sharing this entertaining post! So funny to think about but so true. I like how you came up with ways to respond, I totally do this with other situations to try to figure out a) why it bothers me and b) how I can improve myself for the next time... Thanks again for making me think/laugh tonight!

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  25. One of the big tick marks in the con column of having children for me is other parents. Not only the mompetition, but the high-school drama and the fake niceties. I have loads of cousins and friends with elementary school age children and my word do some of these parents have issues.

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  26. I feel like posts like this actually create more mom competition. I think that here you create divisions between women, asking us to be suspicious of each other in case we reveal ourselves as one of those moms. The suggestion of a lie just for fun is almost a bit hostile, well your example is and would certainly be hurtful to hear. I met a mom at a baby group who irritated me by going on about how well l her baby daughter slept, she later revealed what a tough time she was having in other ways. Maybe these moms that you talk of are hiding their own insecurities with their showing off? I am sure I have irritated other moms at times but how sad to think that another mom would decide to avoid me because of a comment I made like this.. Mothering is tough as well as wonderful, as your lovely blog reveals? Us mothers need to try to support and understand each other and forgive silly comments, noone is perfect after all. Would love to know if you agree with me at all? This comment made with no I'll willl intended. Laura, uk

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    1. Hey Laura!

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It's so funny you write this - before I posted it I had some similar thoughts, and after I read a few of the first comments I thought about it even more. I definitely agree with you a couple levels, and I totally think you are right that taken in a certain way this could absolutely be seen as almost being judgmental towards silly comments, etc. I am talking about more of a different spirit though, a competitiveness past just silly comments, but it made me sad to read some comments that said this article made them apprehensive to be a parent! Ah! Totally not what I was going for- this was supposed to be a little more light-hearted, especially in a few of my ideas on how to combat the competitiveness. It wasn't meant to be hostile at all, more funny, and I'm sorry if I came across that. Not my intention. :)

      Anyway, thank you again for taking the time to leave such a great comment. It really made me think.

      Have a great day over in the UK!
      <3
      Danielle

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  27. Hahaha! I cracked up picturing you and some woman walking side by side as you just make a normal mommy comment, simply out of relief that you got a good night sleep, and then see her start yelling at you how good her baby sleeps! I probably would have (unintentionally) given her the weirdest look if she yelled that at me. I may have even laughed while asking her why she was yelling her response. As for the sarcasm, I've never been one to hold it back and I doubt I'll be so inclined when I'm a mother. I'll just have sit back and laugh to myself when I'm in those situations and wait until I meet other mommas on my level. I can't wait though!

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  28. I love this. Seriously, when I have kids I hope I could have the mindset and perspective you do. All of your mom posts, are amazing and so true. and even though I don't have kids.. of course i think of the day when i will.. and i just think i don't want to be THAT mom or do any of those crazy mom things. You just remind me that there could be young, tatted, and normal moms out there.

    Thank you for sharing this!
    gordonv.blogspot.com

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  29. I really loved this post. I believe every Mom has felt the uncomfortable pressure and I love at you openly addressed it!

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  30. I loved this! I'm not a mom, but I know exactly what you're talking about.. it's the same with pets, friends or even partners. and I know a woman who talks like that about herself constantly, it's kinda sad to be honest. I don't know why people have to be like that, why does everything have to be a competition? I myself hate it.
    plus I think one really shouldn't give them their pat on the back - that way they'll feel assured that they're in the right, encouraged and most definitely will never change. silence and indifference is in my opinion a better way to make them stop.. doesn't work on all people though, there's some tough cookies out there ;)


    PS: after reading some comments I'd like to add:
    of course some people will take your posts the wrong way but that's just like it is with saying or writing anything - not anyone will understand it the way you meant it. don't worry about that and certainly don't let it keep you from writing articles in your own fantastic and witty (with a hint of sarcasm) style!

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  31. I always try to be aware of not being "that mom". Like most moms I think my kids are tiny geniuses, but I get really uncomfortable bragging about their accomplishments to others. As long as my kids aren't around I generally steer around the questions. If my children are present I try to answer the questions in a way that praises their efforts, and not their accomplishments, and move on.

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    1. i also get really uncomfortable when "bragging" or even talking about my daughter's accomplishments in general. it is sort of awkward! she is still too young to understand what i'm saying about her, but i like how you handle speaking about your own children's achievements to others. i'll have to remember that for when she's older :)

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  32. Fantastic! Thanks and just what I needed to read! I have a 7 week old and my sister in law has a 2 week old and her competitiveness is already showing! I really dont want to compare them at all but those tips were helpful and funny!
    Meeks :)

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  33. Brilliant post. Funnily enough my sister and I were having a similar conversation yesterday. She gave birth to her son a month before her sister in law also had a baby boy. Since then there has been a lot of grandapetition over which baby has done what first and which one is 'so clever and advanced'. Thankfully my sister is mature enough to ignore it, as she rightly said, babies are individuals and should be praised for what they individually do, not compared to others. It doesn't matter who walks, talks or is potty trained first, as long as theyre happy, healthy and loved.

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  34. Im overly conscious when I brag about something with Judah. Like I try to make sure the mom I am talking to knows that her kid is amazing. For example today during a playdate someone was talking about how much Judah is talking (now he isn't really talking that much, he says truck, mama, dada and rock...you know the basic boy stuff) but her daughter signs! Which is totally amazing because her daughter can communicate with her and let her know when she is sick ect. Or when someone tells me Judah is cute, I sometimes feel awkward and am not sure what to say. I try never to compare Judah with other moms to one up myself, thats just mean and hurtful. I love my son, he knows I love him and just like that I love you stinky face book I read to him every night, it doesn't matter if he was an alien or a one eye monster he is still the bees knees in my eyes and I don't need to compare ;-)

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  35. Ohhh, I know what you mean! Totally! Due to mom-petition I cut one of my good friendships, urgh. I was never shy or ashamed to ask for tips especially from experienced ppl, but when it came to early motherhood and parenting I gave up. I just couldn't stand listening that either I'm reading too much on the subject and am too serious on it, or that I should be following exactly the way's of my friends no matter what. Uhhh. I tried also suggested by you ways of responding to such competition, but I'm somewhat impatient. When I get to the point that someone is purely bullshitting, I prefer to avoid firstly some of annoying topics, and if it doesn't help, later on I avoid the person. Don't know if it's smart, yet it works for me.

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  36. This is sort of a hateful article in itself. Really in the end, she is still an irritating person to you and now you are a snob to her. Bad vibes being spread, sown and grown.

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    1. Hateful? I totally disagree, but at the same time I do think this article could be taken the wrong way, and I spent a bit of time up in the comments clarifying that. However, I think that telling me that I am the one sowing and growing bad vibes is a little silly considering you just called me a snob! I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

      Thanks for reading/commenting!

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  37. Okay, so I am not a mom, but I totally know what you mean! i am a nanny and have been one for quite some time, and therefore have learned a thing or two about children - and, well, i've noticed that many moms get really defensive and "competitive" with ME, as if i don't really know what the heck i'm talking about because i am not a mom! i understand as much as a non-mother can; i have not been in their (or your) place, i am not there during the nights or wee hours of the morning. although i have a special bond with the little girl i watch, it is nothing compared to that of her mom and dad - which is good! that's how it should be. BUT. it is discouraging when i pour so much love and care into a kid, and the most common response is something like, "oh, well III did that weeks ago," or, "oh, that's nice, well i think it should be this way." and ultimately - they are the parent. it is THEIR child and THEIR decision. no one loves their little one the way they do. and i have NO desire to compete or show them up in ANY way. the reason i nanny is to help parents, to come along side them and share things i have learned. because, i know by being a witness, parenting is HARD! and i know i am not ready to be one...but it's very apparent how competitive moms can be!

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  38. Danielle,
    I love this post! I'm not a mom (yet) but I somehow know exactly what you mean. Facebook is the worst - I just end up hiding friends posts in my feed...it's easier than culling the list.
    I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars...and I want to thank you for recommending it. I downloaded it after reading your post and am still thinking about this beautiful book. Augustus Waters..sigh. I smiled, I cried, I loved these characters.
    Thanks. Your blog makes me happy.

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  39. Hmmm... interesting post for the future mom in me! You always get me thinking about the future!

    Val
    http://valentinaduracinsky.blogspot.com/

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  40. Danielle,
    I've been reading your blog for a little over a year now.. I found you when I was nice and prego and you helped me through many a tired days when I had no energy physically but my brain was SO BORED!
    I love this post! My little one is about to turn 11 months next week.. he by no means is an "early starter" for anything but he is the happiest little man and I love him to pieces!! Others (mompetitors) try to make excuses and sideways comments to me all the time... he was 3 weeks early, he's a boy, maybe you're not spending enough time working with him, you really should try to make him crawl this could mess up his motor skills for his future.. yadda yadda. Whatever the reason/excuses may be for my little one to not be at his "textbook" potential for 11 months, I am loving being a mom and I truly believe he is loving being a baby, which is the most important to me!
    Thank you for letting all us moms dealing with this similar situation that we are not the only ones who deal with this mompetition.
    Happy Sunday to you and your beautiful family!
    Kristie

    BTW.. I saw on your Instagram that you will be visiting La Jolla soon, that's where I live! Enjoy your time here and if you haven't gotten enough recommendations of places to go.. feel free to email me :)
    kristiebegor@gmail.com

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  41. Hi I just found your blog via twitter suggestions. I guess twitter was on to something because. So far I love it. I love this post and your honesty about this pretend game. Between personal mom guilt (you know when you start questioning your own mommy skills) I always feel there is little room for this kind of competition yet there is always some that find a way to SQUEEZE it in. Look forward to reading more.

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  42. I'm so glad you wrote about this! I'm a nanny and I've been confronted with the types of moms who all they want to do is compare and then say that their kid is better. All I can think is "jeeze he's not even mine, back off man! and btw, he's still pretty rad. So I don't care if you think yours is better."

    I'm not going to lie. I wanted to shout it to the rooftops that Shay learned how to hopscotch after I just showed him ONCE. The kid must be a genius. *rolls eyes* In other words I can see in SOME situations, where it's appropriate, it's ok to brag a little. But not one-up the others.

    I know this is only going to get worse when I have children of my own. Especially since I'll be more involved with other mothers than I am now but I love your advice on how to deal with it. I think though I'll be a little too sarcastic most of the time and end up losing a lot of "friends". Eh, oh well... who needs friends who constantly tell you their kid is better than yours?

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