I love receiving holiday cards, especially the ones that contain letters telling me what my friends and their family members have been up to. Reading these helps me feel connected to people I don’t get to see often. We recently received a card from some friends who live overseas; it was wonderful to see the pictures of all the interesting things they had been up to and I enjoyed reading all about their adventures. My husband had read the card before I did and when I was finished reading it he said, “Did you see what their kids can do? They can read and write in a foreign language, and ski!” This chaffed a bit considering that the children in question are a little younger than our own.
I admit that for a brief moment, there was some jealousy on my part. Our oldest is in kindergarten just starting to learn to read and while he’s had some exposure to Spanish, I wouldn’t claim he’s anywhere near fluent. We did take our children for ski lessons last year, but they’re nowhere near as accomplished as our friends’ children in this regard.
I told my husband, “If we lived overseas as our friends do, our children would probably know how to speak, and possibly read and write in a foreign language. And if we skied all the time like our friends do, our kids would probably be pretty good skiers as well.” He agreed and we moved past this fleeting moment of parental envy.
Later as I was reflecting on our discussion, I was reminded of a key point in my book, Ten Simple Tools for No Regrets Parenting, namely that parenting is not a competition.
Our boys are at the age where winning suddenly becomes very important and everything is a competition: who can get make their bed first, who gets their shoes on first, who gets dressed first. What they win in these little contests is arbitrary; the winning itself is what’s important. My husband and I discourage this ceaseless competition and are working hard to change their thinking and help them find healthy outlets for the impulse. We remind our kids that they shouldn’t feel constantly pitted against each other as brothers; that they should be cheering each other on. I think that’s a good lesson for us as parents as well. So next year when the holiday cards start arriving, I look forward to hearing all of the wonderful things my friends are up to and cheering them on.