Competitive parents: How they affect us all

Competitive parents: How they affect us all Cover Image

Competition is here to stay, by the looks of it and it’s not among the kids, unfortunately. One father shines a spotlight on the phenomenon.

I’ve said it before.  Having a kid changes your ‘life as you know it’. Whether it’s good or bad (or both) – I’ll leave it to each one to find out for themselves, but nobody will deny that the change is inevitable. Let’s look at this very simple thing – fears/worries.

All of us have our own list (or in my case, a whole diary) of scenarios that make us uncomfortable and often worried or even scared. Now, once you become a parent and your kid moves into that precious ‘toddler age’ – there are certain ‘fears or worries’ that take precedent over your previous ones. No, the older ones don’t go away. These merely, and slowly, move up the ladder and displace them temporarily.

I know parents who are extremely worried to take their kids to a shop or house with plenty of breakable objects. Or in my case, a simple note from the school that says ‘Fancy dress competition will be held on xxx’.

Now, if you’re wondering why such a simple (and what should be a fun) event ranks high up on my list of paternal worries, here are two simple reasons why:

I’m neither artsy nor craftsy. Or crafty either, but when it comes to kids and such events, it becomes a very fierce competition.

The first one is pretty self-explanatory. Just like you’ve all read (and laughed over) my trysts with D-I-Y furnitures, arts & crafts do not come naturally to me. In fact, if you gave me some glue and some art objects to stick on a chart, you can be absolutely certain that not only will they be stuck in some haphazard order that is in no way pleasing to the eye, but also that I will somehow manage to glue my fingers to each other or myself to the chair I’m sitting on.

Now, fortunately my wife is a creative wizard when it comes to arts and crafts (and generally anything D-I-Y). So between us ,we have point 1 covered. Which brings me to point two – competition.

These days, thanks to social media and what I’d call peer-and-societal-pressure, everything is a competition. Of course, when it comes to kids, the word competition is no longer enough to describe this impending battle that will soon take on epic proportions. Right from the moment that an event is announced, the forces are geared up for combat. Plans are drawn out, strategies are charted, spies are despatched to obtain information from the enemy camp and of course, the weapons are sharpened. And in case you’re still wondering, it’s the parents who are getting ready to compete.

I personally know parents who are so laid back and relaxed and all they care about is the kid having fun. But there is that larger number of the general parenting populace who fall into the ‘competitive category’.

This is the thing – as far as my little brain can comprehend, competitions like fancy dress events for toddlers are important. They’re important because it breaks the monotony of the ‘Go-to-school >> Study >> Do home work >> Go back to school’ cycle. It’s also a good platform for kids to showcase their talents, boost their self-confidence and of course, have some fun. Now, I’m in no way qualified to judge another parent, but I think a lot of parents these days seem to have missed that circular – yes, the one that says it’s meant to be a fun event.

For example,

To the parents of the kid who is decked up as a mythological hero, complete with a quiver full of arrows, bow, helmet and adorned with enough jewellery to make an Indian bride go ‘uff!’ – did you forget that it’s 39 degrees and fun is the last thing on your son’s mind now?

Or to the parents of that little girl who is crumbling under the weight of that tree-shaped structure and is struggling to even smile – maybe that’s fun for your daughter?

I’ve come to realise that this is the truth:

Fancy dress competitions for toddlers exist so that parents can showcase their creative talents.

And that exactly is my pain point. I’m sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place, so to speak. My kid is no longer competing with other kids; rather I’m having to compete with parents who are creatively gifted.

But then again, none of this should surprise me, should it? We live in a world where there are beauty pageants for 2 year olds. We are no longer living in a world where we were happy and proud if our kid has a talent. These days babies are shown flash cards even before they can say mama or papa. In fact, I’m even given to understand that there’s a book that’s aptly titled, ‘How to have a smart baby!’ – a bestseller, I’m sure.

For some unfathomable reason, the parents of today are starting to relate the success and failure of their parenting on the success or failure of their kid(s). I’m left wondering if in today’s fast-tracked world, parents wake up thinking, ‘What can I do to make my child cleverer?’

I believe the education system is to blame too. From day one of pre-school, they’re worried about the school’s reputation, ranking and feedback. And in this process of chasing ranks and reputation, I’m sure it rubs off on the parents. Parents are probably told that they’re not doing enough to support the teachers and of course, not-so-subtly told that their kids may not succeed in today’s cut-throat world.

I understand that not giving a child any kind of stimulus or support is a terribly bad idea. It’s akin to locking them in a darkened room and waiting for them to wither out. But surely it doesn’t also mean that you bombard them with so much information trying to make them smarter and brilliant. All it does is make them good at memorising things.

Just like I refuse to let people label my child, I also refuse to let my child be guided by competitions. I’ve always believed that it comes down to participation and whatever experience and lesson he gleans from it – that’s what matters. And I’ll stop this post with a humble request to all my fellow (and future) parents :

Everything is not a competition; and very often, you learn more lessons from failure than from success.

*This article originally appeared on I Wrote Those

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