1) The Parents Who Are Openly Competitive
I must give kudos to the Competitive Parents (CPs) as they have an unconditional belief in their Perfect Children's abilities plus an infinite amount of No Shame. Parenting, for them, has become the most competitive adult sport. Parents that engage in the sport of Competitive Child Rearing (coming soon to Playstation 3), often get great results from their Perfect Children. Maybe this is where I am going wrong. I understand that we live in a culture which constantly tells us to get the best for our children, but Swahili lessons at age 5? Come on. Once upon a time in a land far far away, children were allowed to be children and it wasn't about the best nursery, the top schools and the excellent exam results.
It starts from birth. Competitive Parents go out of their way to let their friends know how little pain relief the mother needed and how amazing their newborn sleeps. Then comes the feeding - all breast and organic cooking only. Pushchairs are a major showing-off area with parents paying hundreds to push the most fashionable model and create as much pram-envy as possible. Then come the improve-your-baby classes: Sign Language, Music, Yoga - all before baby is one. At school age the extra-curricular classes include underwater swimming and public speaking. A major area of one upmanship is not owning a television. The ultimate aim of the Competitive Parent is to have rival parents know exactly what they are up to, only then have they satisfactorily achieved their goal.
2) The Parents Who Are Secretly Competitive
Secretly Competitive Parents (SCPs) are definitely the worst kind. If you are non-competitive, they lure you into a friendship based on your shared non-competitiveness. At first you think how nice it is to have a friend who doesn't make you feel crap about your kids. That's their aim, they reel you in and just at the point when you are talking about how you've fed your kids fish fingers five nights in a row, they STRIKE. You think you have misheard them and you let it pass, but you see them a few days later and they strike again. It starts off subtle, a comment here, a funny look there but little by little they have got you feeling so goddamn AWFUL that your kids will never be as good as theirs.
Secretly Competitive Parents are very very clever. It's not the obvious things that SCPs are competitive about. There are the ones who go all out for book day fancy dress (hmmmm that would be me then). Those who throw the biggest and best birthday parties and the ones who say their child eats everything (ooops me again). They also excel at turning achievements into negatives so to get away with it "Oh I felt so bad having a go at her about her spellings but then she won The Headteacher's Award".
The terrible fact about SCPs is that the one time you accidentally mention that your child has won something, they say "Oh you're not turning into one of THOSE parents are you?"
3) The Parents Who Aren't Competitive
When I first had The Eldest One I admit I was competitive for about eight months at which point he had a Health Visitor Check and I realised that I didn't have a child genius. This was reinforced when he reached two years and I looked at his old baby photos and couldn't understand why I had thought he was the most beautiful babe when clearly he was a MOONHEAD. From these moments on I understood that it was pointless trying to compete as my kids were shaping up to be pretty average. I found the minute I judged another child's behaviour, my children would infinitely do something worse.
Now take me and The Husband. We are pretty cool, right? We've been to Glastonbury, I wear Uggs and we know a couple of N-Dubz tracks. So how come we have possibly the uncoolest kids on the planet? They don't even look cool so we can't pretend they are cool when they are so obviously not. There ought to be a support group for all us Non Competitive Parents: "Hello my name is Claire, I'm a slack mum and I have rubbish kids".
I know that my non-competitiveness is also about the security I have in the Parent-Me. Although I'm not that secure when a teacher pulls me up about The Tomboy's behaviour or when The Grandma questions why The Toddler wasn't walking at twelve months by asking "Do you think he is disabled?"
I don't want to be mother to The Perfect Child (well, some days...), I much prefer spirited kids anyway. Spirited being a great word to use for a child that will never be The Perfect Child, no matter how competitive you are.