Editorial: Parenting—It’s not a contest

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Here’s a question for you: Why do we, as humans, feel the need to go completely overboard when it comes to everything to do with our children? Somewhere along the way, it seems we have forgotten the joy in simplicity. From over-the-top gender reveals to lavish birthday parties and even fancy post-game snacks—can we please take it down a few notches?

I am not suggesting that we stop celebrating life’s milestones, but I am suggesting that we get a grip. Perhaps it is the need to present our lives as perfect on social media that has caused the world to go mad. Moms, I promise you that nobody is keeping score and there is truly no need to one-up the gourmet cupcakes Brayden’s mom brought after last Tuesday’s soccer game. It’s not a contest! Take the orange slices! Secretly the other moms will love you for lowering the dang bar.

Some of the most amazing memories I have from childhood are my friends’ birthday parties. Get this, the parties were in the backyard of whoever was having the party. We had cake, ice cream and Kool-Aid. We played games in the yard and we loved every minute. Once or twice, there was a birthday party at the skating rink and that was super cool. If that was happening, it was usually two or three moms getting together and having a joint birthday party for their kids’ birthdays and sharing the cost. 

We never had the elaborate affairs that have become today’s ridiculous norm. Birthday parties have become a competition—a chance to flex and show off. It doesn’t even seem to be about the kids anymore as much as it is about a “look at how great I am” Facebook moment. Birthdays should be about fun, not excess. 

As my kids got older, I thought maybe the level of absurdity would diminish as yearly birthday parties kind of faded. Boy was I wrong. Now we are supposed to hire a photographer every three weeks to capture every single moment and accomplishment of our child’s life. Nope! I’m not doing it. We literally have cameras in our hands at all times. Snap a pic or two and call it a day. I mean no disrespect to photographers because Cullman has some amazing talent but hiring a photographer because your sweet little dumpling made the honor roll seems a bit much to me. 

Somehow, I managed to get my children through high school without losing my mind completely. I questioned myself many times when seeing some of the ways other parents documented or celebrated everything their children did. Honestly, I couldn’t afford even a fraction of what other parents were doing and at times, I felt lesser than as a parent. I worried that my children would think they were lesser than too and that’s a pretty terrible way to feel. I wondered if other parents even considered the enormous pressure they were putting on other parents with their lofty doting. 

Now, my son is finishing Marine boot camp and I joined a group on Facebook created to keep the parents of his company informed. I find myself trying to weed through the posts to make sure I am understanding everything but am constantly bombarded with posts by moms determined to be the parent who loves their son or daughter just a little bit more. 

It seems having a candle lit or worrying yourself silly is not good enough anymore. These women have literally created shrines to their recruits in their home. Yes, shrines! The first mom posted her table and I guess it was cute–a pic, candle, a framed prayer. Fast forward 10 weeks and the most recent mom who posted has an entire wall, floor to ceiling, decorated to her soon-to-be Marine. It’s like the world’s most patriotic Hobby Lobby landed in her living room. I refuse to be that extra. 

I guess it’s possible my kids could be sparing their poor single mom’s feelings, but they assure me that they always feel loved and they always know I am proud of them. Not because I shower them with material praise, but because I shower them with loving and encouraging words, as well as my time. What I told them everyday in private is what mattered and it cost nothing. What I post on social media hardly impresses them nor does it carry the same weight. Besides, they think Facebook is dumb and for old people. 

I really hope simple comes back into fashion soon. My personality and wallet just can’t keep up with the world’s desire to impress. I long for the days when two hours playing with your closest friends in the yard was enough and orange slices were just fine. 

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com