Resisting the Mompetition
October 6th, 2011
It was an innocent enough remark from another mom at our daycare — “R__ is starting Phonics Adventures today…” — but it abruptly brought me face-to-face with that awful, hidden reality of parenting: mompetition.
If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that weird competitive streak that runs through moms (at least American moms) as we strive to ensure that our child is the best, the brightest, and the most likely to be admitted to Harvard at the age of four.
There’s an ever-increasing push to get our young kids involved in more and more activities at a younger and younger age. Kids in Miss Mouse’s class play soccer, take dance, and are now taking early reading classes. At the age of two.
There’s (probably) nothing wrong with extracurricular activities if your child enjoys them. Miss Mouse takes a music class that is a daycare add-on. Once a week, she spends an hour with a few other kids, singing, dancing, and banging objects together in a preschool approximation of music. She loves it.
The problem I see is when we schedule things for our kids because we think we’re supposed to, rather than because they enjoy it. And that’s where the mompetition rears its ugly head, because the first thing I thought when I heard that another kid in Mousie’s class was taking Phonics Adventures was: “oh, wow, should I enroll Miss Mouse? I’d hate for her to not keep up with the other kids...”
Reality check, momma. Miss Mouse is two. Well, almost three. But the point is this: she doesn’t need to learn to read yet. She really truly doesn’t. She loves books. She loves words. She loves letters and pretending to read. We read to her and she “reads” to us. We’re doing everything right and I do not — NOT NOT — need to enroll her in a special class to speed along her literary growth.
Today’s kids are much more highly scheduled than children a generation ago. Or ten years ago. We are so busy signing them up for “enrichment activities” that I think we run the risk of forgetting what their main purpose is at this age: to play and be kids.
So I didn’t sign Miss Mouse up for Phonics Adventures. Or Beginning Spanish. Or SAT Prep for Preschoolers (I bet it exists somewhere!!). But I did take her to the park this afternoon…