Friday, January 25, 2013

Mommy's New Playground

I am a "Small Town Girl." I grew up in a small town... I moved to a much smaller town. It suits me (ok, maybe not this small of town), but I have a community mindset. I don't like to focus on the world at-large as much as be actively involved in improving the community in which I live. I believe in tangible, direct & immediate impact.

That being said, it is no great secret that my "Fantasy Life" is living in a very small rooftop apartment in a very big city (although my inconsistent fear of heights would probably keep me from ever lounging on the roof). Of the many things that romance me about city life, the one that has been on my mind the most lately is... parks. Places to go for the children to play (in sandboxes filled with dirty hypodermic needles as all us small town folks believe)... and places for Mommies to chat. My later-in-life re-entry to Mommiehood feels like I am trapped in a little Mommy bubble floating along. There are no parks or Little Gyms or Gymborees or zoos or even McDonalds play yards around here. For a short time this week, I considered gymnastics class for Benjamin, but even that would be a 30 minute drive if I could bring myself to do it. There are swim lessons at the Y, but not until he's older than the stage when I have to don skin-tight Lycra to join him in the pool.

So, although I miss all these things and wish there were some pre-organized gatherings of Mommy & child in which to participate, I fully recognize what these social trysts turn into... the Great Comparison. What is that 2 year old doing that mine isn't? How is my 2 year old more intellectually advanced that hers? Which kids are socially awkward? Not mine I hope!

Yet my geographic absence of these Mommy Mine Fields (without driving an hour to "the city") doesn't stop that inherent need to compare children. The new playground of self-induced Mommy comparison? Social Media! The ill of every self-doubt, whether judging your popularity by the number of friends/followers or seeking approval through the volume of likes/comments on posted pictures & videos (specifically those of your kid's latest achievements or adorably coordinated new- probably monogrammed- outfit). The new virtual playground of Mommy-loathing, of both the projected and self-inflicted varieties. (Mommy Blogs can be just a little guilty of inducing this too, but get away with a little more because the anonymity of not really knowing the person lessens the comparison-guilt complex.)

The new element introduced in this forum though is the removal of an age cap for such mommy-comparisons. Eventually, the playgrounds & parks age comes to an end, but mommy bragging rights on-line extends all though the home rums on the t-ball fields, to elementary school Principal Lists & Honor Rolls, to high school Homecoming pictures, to college acceptance & scholarship announcements.

I have found myself from time to time removing Mommy friends from my Facebok newsfeed just to avoid their child savant postings. Because unfortunately, I am highly prone to the evil that is Mommy & Child comparison.  I find it easy to overlook all the accomplishments of my own child because he cannot master that one skill that a "friend" has probably practiced with focus before endlessly recording performances until creating just the right masterpiece for mass approval. It is easy to overlook that though... and wonder, Oh my god! What am I doing wrong?

Yes, I know. We are not supposed to compare our children. Each child is a unique individual with his own talents and contribution to make to the world's culture... yada, yada, yada. I can't help but to snicker to myself just a little whenever parents proclaim to not compare their child to others. Of all the contributions, our children are the greatest impression we will make on the world we leave behind. OF COURSE, we want to know how well we did. Even if you don't get stressed out about the "markers" set for that basis of camparison- you care, we all care. Define success however you wish but there is no definition by which to measure success without a base of comparison for achievement.

Unfortunately, I am finding that social media is making that spotlight of comparison shine even brighter... and we only burn ourselves with the light.

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