I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
October 8, 2013
I was at a school event a few weeks ago when it happened, right in front of me.
“We’re having such a hard time deciding where Arthur will go to school next year,” one mom sighed. It’s a familiar topic of discussion lately, since my daughter’s elementary school ends after fourth grade. “We’ve been getting so many letters and phone calls from the private schools– Hoity Hall… Haughty Hill… The Worthalot School… We just don’t know where to begin.”
“Oh I know,” another mom agreed. “Stuffington Ridge Academy just won’t leave us alone. Bailey’s test scores were through the roof and I don’t think they’ll be satisfied until we’ve signed a tuition contract that extends through her senior year!”
“Well we’ve been told that Jeremiah’s oboe playing abilities pretty much guarantee him a spot at The Jeffersonian Institute of Financial Privilege,” interjected a third mom. “I just don’t know where that child gets his talent. And did I mention he’ll only eat green vegetables and grass-fed organic beef?” She raised her eyes to the heavens in a weak approximation of frustration and exhaled loudly. “I’m going to the farmer’s market Every. Other. Day.”
Here I was, yet again, in the midst of a full-fledged Mompetition.
I’ve found myself a reluctant competitor in Mompetitions ever since my nine-year-old was a baby. In fact, I wrote about the phenomenon in the Nashville Scene back in 2008, aptly titling the post “Brag Hag.” Here’s an excerpt:
Take my ﬁrst playgroup, which consisted of 10 babies crying, drooling and completely ignoring each other while their mommies sat in a big circle and bragged, week after agonizing week.
“Jaeden was sitting up by himself at just four months!”
“Oh, that’s great, Margot! It’s funny you mention it…. We couldn’t believe it, but Chloe was sitting up by three months!”
“Well, Palmer sat up the day he was born! I swear! My obstetrician has a picture of it in her ofﬁce!”
Around and around we’d go, our claims ever louder and more outrageous until the kids were wailing from sheer aural agony. I’d return home secretly convinced my tiny daughter was doomed to be a female Forrest Gump, since she had neither pooped solid gold nuggets nor cooed out “Ave Maria” at six months like the profoundly gifted progeny of my “friends.”
Nine years later, all that excess braggage hasn’t let up. In fact, if anything it’s gotten worse.Our children have developed actual personalities and measurable intelligence, and the stakes are getting higher now as they compete for spots in schools, sports, and academic programs. And so when a mom starts crowing about how smart/talented/creative her kid is, it’s harder than ever not to counter with our own kids’ achievements– because little Tyler/Macy/Max/Isabella is special too, dammit!
I’ve engaged in Mompetitions more times than I’d like to admit. But afterward, I always feel uncomfortable and ashamed of myself. Sometimes, I admit, I’ve stretched the truth a little bit in the heat of the moment, and I’m pretty sure the other moms have as well. (I could give you a dozen hilarious examples, but I’m trying to be kind here.) And so lately, I’ve taken another tactic.
That day at my kids’ school, I simply said, “Wow. That’s great. We haven’t heard from anyone, and I’m actually sort of worried about where Punky will end up next year.” I was met with surprised silence.
Sh*t had just gotten real.
“What are y’all going to do?” a mom asked.
“Well, we’re applying to magnet school, of course,” I said, “and we’re going to apply for a few private schools that aren’t too expensive, and we’re talking about maybe moving to Williamson County and enrolling the kids there.”
“What about The Worthalot School?” the first mom asked. “Aren’t you applying there? I thought you loved that school.”
“Uh,” I said, and hesitated. This was the moment when I usually would have come up with some story about it being too far away, or not as great as I had initially thought. Instead, I opted for honesty.
“We can’t afford it,” I said, looking her squarely in the eye. She gasped softly, which didn’t surprise me. After all, I had just uttered the four dirtiest words you can say in suburbia.
It was uncomfortably quiet for a moment, but I didn’t care. The truth had freed me from the twinges of envy I’d felt listening to the other moms, and helped me to remember that I needed to keep things in perspective. I have great kids. We have good options. And whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.
Suddenly, another mom spoke up who until that moment hadn’t said a word. “We can’t afford those schools either,” she admitted. “Not unless we want to move to a studio apartment and drive one car. I mean, the tuition alone is like twenty thousand dollars a year.”
“I know what you mean,” another mom said. “Who wants to be the only family at the school who can’t afford to take their kids on vacation, or get them a car when they turn 16? It’s just not worth it.” The other moms murmured in agreement.
There was noticeable relief across everyone’s faces as all of our fears about the upcoming school year came to the surface. And just like that, the Mompetition was over. We all chatted easily after that, realizing that we were all in the same boat. Figuring out where to send our kids next year wouldn’t be easy for any of us, no matter what we decided. And while the truth was tough to admit, putting it out there changed everything.
I’m glad I’ve finally learned how to stop being so mompetitive.
Let’s just not talk about the fact that it took me nine years to figure it out.
Image via EvelynGiggles/Flickr