We all know those parents.
Their perfect offspring never tantrums, learned to read before Kindergarten, kicks a soccer ball better than Beckham, and has artistic skills to rival Picasso.
You stand beside the swing set, nodding your head as they gush about their child’s seemingly inhuman accomplishments. If you’re nicer than me, you’re thrilled that such a talented individual will lead the next generation. If not, your internal monologue goes something like this: Your kid is eating boogers. Right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children. And, like all children, they do things that amaze me. Just think, only six short years ago, my oldest was smashing her tiny fingers in a cupcake, exploring the sugary confection for the first time by touch alone because WTF was that and could she really eat it? Now she’s wearing a little apron and making her father’s birthday brownies. (See I’m bragging. I can’t help it.)
It’s stunning how much progress children can make in a very short time. Of course you’d want to share your awe with the world. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. But on occasion, please consider why you’re bragging and to whom.
Are you sharing your child’s accomplishment because it makes you feel like a more accomplished person? That’s my DNA, right there!
Stop. That’s like telling someone you’re brilliant or beautiful or tremendous in some way or another. Self-confidence is great, but when you’re bragging about yourself all the time, you’re either:
1). A narcissist
2). Deeply insecure
3). Some combination of both
Do yourself—and us all—a favor and just stop.
Are you bragging because you want the other parent to marvel at your stellar parenting skills? I can relate to this one because it reeks of insecurity.
Focus on your parenting and let other people focus on theirs. You are enough. Let me say that again, because I know from personal experience the self-doubt that sits just above your heart, telling you over and over that you are lacking: You are enough.
Something I’ve noticed over the years from my interactions with other parents: Most brag, but parents of children with special needs tend to brag about improvement, not abilities. Often this boasting is a way to encourage others in similar situations.
“My kid wore her leg braces all night!” I gushed on Facebook. Had there been a bumper sticker that read “Proud Parent of a Kid Who Toughed It Out Eight Hours with Corrective Medical Equipment Strapped to Her Calves”, I might have slapped it on my car.
When my three-and-half year old finally dropped a turd in the toilet, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm on social media (Sorry if anyone was scrolling through their Facebook feed while eating).
Both of the above brags had NOTHING to do with me. Sure, I was the one strapping one kid into her braces and coaxing the other to trust that she wouldn’t be flushed down the toilet with her poop. But in both cases, the accomplishment was theirs.
Often, I was bragging to other parents whose children face similar sensory issues. They were fighting or had fought the leg brace fight. They were changing diapers on a five-year old. They were genuinely thrilled on my behalf, just as I was when their child sat through an entire restaurant meal (We had a phase that included gagging at restaurants. I completely get the urge to make a banner. Hell, I’ll make it for you).
Whenever I gush about my children’s progress, I hope parents in the midst of their own struggles also hear this: I have tried so many things. I have cried when no one-especially my child—could see, because nothing worked. But now, something has! Even if it’s a little thing, it’s a step forward. Whatever you are working towards, keeping reaching.
I know that’s what I hear when I listen to the amazing progress other children have made with OT or special diets or visual schedules. Your kid walked past a sleeping dog without howling like a fall-out siren? YAS!! (I have literally high-fived other mothers for less.)
Even with this perspective, I still catch myself bragging—or worse complaining—about something my child did or didn’t do to someone whose child has struggles that differ from my own. Sometimes I catch myself in the moment. Sometimes I realize I was an ass later. But, I try my best to consider how my bragging (or bitching) might impact others.
Kids, no matter their abilities, can achieve amazing things. These accomplishments should be celebrated, but just as it’s better to praise a child for being hardworking (something they did) versus their intelligence (something that in many ways is beyond their control), as parents we should consider why we brag.