6.12.2006

The CompetiMommy

Thalia's squeals and wild arm flailing meant that either she was suddenly very excited about the margarine- shellacked scrambled eggs from the hotel's breakfast buffet, or more likely, her baby radar had kicked in.

Sure enough, a mom about my age had entered the dining room with a little girl who looked about Thalia's age. After the standard I pushed a kid out of my vagina-you pushed a kid out of your vagina, so hi there nod across the tables, I brought Thalia over to say hi.

"What a cute little girl," I said. "How old?"

"11 months," her mother beamed as she tossed back her red curls.

"Oh, mine too! Today, in fact."

"Well actually she's 11 and a half," she corrected. "Her birthday is in two weeks."

small talk small talk I'm from Ohio I'm from New York nice to meet you this is Emily this is Thalia my husband is working today more small talk

"And look at those cheeks!" I commented. The little girl indeed had huge, squeezable pillows of chub on either side of her nose.

"Oh," the mom said a little defensively. "I've been worried about them."

"Really?"

"Oh yes. But the doctor assured me they'll go away."

The doctor assured her? Seriously? She asked her doctor about her kid's cheeks?

"Is she in any playgroups?" the mom asked.

"No," I said shifting Thalia to my other hip while she reached for her new friend's pacifier. "No playgroups yet."

"Well, Emily has one and it's just wonderful. She has five friends. Five! Three girls and two boys. She's very social."

The light bulb went on over my slightly dense new mommy head. I was getting this little girl's resume disguised as chitchat. I had heard of these types of mothers but had never actually encountered one in person. (Probably because I did not have a playgroup.) I was so excited. A real live, CompetiMommy. Right here! Talking to me! If only I had had my camera on me.

The questions continued to fly: Do I take classes with my daughter? Does she know sign language? Does she take swimming? Is she good on the plane? How many words does she have? It was exhausting.

My dreams of lolling aside the pool together with my new pal, ordering daiquiris while our children frolicked unattended by the deep end were dashed to tiny little bits. As amusing as it is to watch a total stranger attempt to impress me with her infant's inventory of friends and words and signs, I just don't have the energy for it. There's too much angst in the world as it is, what with Iraq and Guantanamo and the move of Arrested Development to cable.

But the interesting part of it all is that while this woman was painting a picture of a prodigy who would graduate Harvard at thirteen with a dual major in music composition and quantum physics, the kid was absolutely unremarkable. She wasn't particularly responsive or vocal or physical or...anything, really. The most striking thing about her were those delicious cheeks.

The cheeks her mom hoped would go away.

------

A Perfect Post


65 Comments:

Blogger Chag said...

I had an ex-friend who would call me up all the time and run down the list of things his child was doing to see if my child was doing them as well. Notice I said ex?

6/12/06, 12:38 AM  
Blogger lildb said...

I like this post because I find it, among other things, reassuring. I spend so much time flying solo with my kid, and I start to go a little insane (no! really!) with my thoughts. I just get silly-paranoid about stuff like, am I overdoing it with _x_ and _y_? Am I too lax? Am I too overbearing? Etc.

Now, after peering at a true SuperMommy, through your eyes, I see that I have nothing. to. worry. about.

Thanks for that! Now if I could just keep myself from taking a bath in the homemade gin during the baby's naps... Sigh...

6/12/06, 12:52 AM  
Anonymous michele said...

I hate moms like that. Really do. Both my kids have issues - one was early, with resulting delays, and one has a heart condition, again, delays. So then the competimommy comes out and asks all these things, and I like - nope not yet! And I get the ooooohhhhhh. Well. All kids develop at their own rate. Good luck with that.

Hmph.

6/12/06, 1:09 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Ooooh, you really do write posts that resonate with me, Mom101! I was slower than you in identifying my first Competimommy. She and I had been occasional acquaintances before we were pregnant, usually exchanging a few words in passing each week. After we had our babies, it took three weeks to figure out that her weekly interrogations of "what new tricks are your baby doing" (and so on and so forth) were not just an awkward conversion, but a resume opportunity!

6/12/06, 1:41 AM  
Blogger MommyWithAttitude said...

Oh no! This works, "I try not to pay too much attention to her, but maybe her dad knows if she says anything, I'll go see if I can find him."

And I'm pretty sure you can get into Harvard without knowing sign language, that whole craze is just to make sure stay-at-home moms can feel like they're "doing something important." But, honestly, what could be less "important" than teaching an infant sign language? Nothing.

I'd keep going, but I can tell I'm just going to get meaner as I go!

6/12/06, 2:03 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

Chubby cheeks are one of the BEST things a itty bitty can have!That women is CRAZY!

6/12/06, 2:38 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

They don't have those moms in Italy! There are no American-style playgroups here! They don't know about baby sign! They think my kid's the shit because he has blue eyes and (sometimes) sleeps through the night.
I love that about it here, even if I do have all the old ladies on my back to put another sweater on him.

6/12/06, 6:25 AM  
Anonymous krista said...

It is really sasd when people treat their children as reflections of themselves- which is what I imagine this woman was doing.

You know- where everything about her children she sees only as a reflection of who she is.

It's a shame. I don't know if people like that really truly appreciate the uniqueness of their children. The human, amazing and wonderful uniqueness.

They are too busy trying to be better than and too busy vying for outside recognition, to see the beauty of what IS already.

6/12/06, 7:19 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

These are the women that make me want to tell outrageou lies about signing in Slavic languages and enjoying Gregorian chant.

Poor little Emily, she is in for a bumpy ride.

6/12/06, 7:27 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Hmm. Yeah. Well, probably this person has some deep-down low self esteem, and is simply trying to make herself feel better by showing what an amazingly prodigious child she has produced. I do hope that her attitude chills out a bit in the coming years, so she doesn't totally screw her kid up by making her live every minute in fear of falling behind.

But you know, I do *remember* being a new parent. It was almost seventeen years ago, and I was only twenty-three... and, at the time, I thought I was a grown-up! So I must remember not to be too harsh on new parents... most of them do end up to be fairly normal.

6/12/06, 8:15 AM  
Anonymous motherhooduncensored said...

Oy. Cheeks? Man. That's just craziness. However, I'm sure those moms are more common than we'd like to think.

Now back to flashcards and sorting exercises.

Heh.

6/12/06, 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

God...what a disappointment.

Unfortunately, there are shitloads of moms like that here. So annoying.

6/12/06, 9:18 AM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Dude, I do not, do not, do not understand why people try to compare babies. BABIES. Completely unpredictable creatures that develop at completely unpredictable rates.

I have a friend who didn't talk until he was four years old, and when he was little everyone assumed he must be retarded.

Now he's getting his PhD in Mathematics. He talks and writes as well as anyone I know. He's also a kickass photographer. Oh, and did I mention he has an I.Q. of like 140?

My own son didn't walk until he was 15 months old, is scared to climb stairs, and is terrified of 80% of solid foods. But he's already starting to read a couple of words at the age of two.

Every kid is ahead of the average in some areas and behind the average at others. The last thing small children need is someone hovering around judging them on their mastery of every single "milestone."

6/12/06, 9:43 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

Oh, man. I find myself choosing my words so carefully now when I chit-chat with other parents like that. I remember commenting to a Dad how darling and petite his daughter was, a while back. He got so defensive & barked about the parasite she'd endured whilst in orphanage in China.. I felt so bad, I turned the conversation to the fact that I'm so used to my big ox of a 2-year old. And my! what sweet shoes she's wearing... gah.

Did you ask how Emily's therapy fund is coming along??

6/12/06, 9:58 AM  
Blogger Bri said...

I run into these women ALL THE TIME. I've gone with the following responses:

"It's a good thing my kid's cute - because she'll need to rely on that someday"

"Oh really? My kid really likes to eat dirt/leaves/grass"

"She may not be the brightest kid on the block but she's the happiest - ignorance is bliss, right?"

"Oh I heard _______ (fill in the blank with whatever is being discussed) actually causes ADD'

That last one usually freaks them out long enough for me to get away...

6/12/06, 10:00 AM  
Blogger Queen Haline said...

I can't believe you actually never met one of these before! I was absolutely surrounded by them in DC. Sounds like you handled it perfectly.

6/12/06, 10:23 AM  
Blogger bubandpie said...

"...lolling aside the pool together with my new pal, ordering daiquiris while our children frolicked unattended by the deep end..."

LOL! That made my day.

6/12/06, 10:23 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Jaelithe: Uh oh. Now everyone's gonna be all like, "my kid started talking early. There goes that Harvard scholarship."

6/12/06, 10:25 AM  
Blogger Jodi said...

HOW SAD, about the cheeks I mean. These kinds of mommy's give me a massive headache. I would have NEEDED a daquiri after talking to her. Gag-cough-Gag.

6/12/06, 10:37 AM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

(retching noise)

I hate that crap. Hate hate hate. It makes me feel sorry for the child more than anything else.

Can I still join the club even though there was no pushing involved in the births of either of my children?

6/12/06, 10:39 AM  
Blogger T. said...

The sad thing is poor Emily is going to lose those precious cheeks and eventually turn into her mother.

Shudder.

6/12/06, 10:49 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

Hey, I'll meet you for drinks at the deep end of the pool, 'cause I am fairly certain my ittybit can swim!

Seriously, though. I don't think I've ever met a competimom before, either. I have meet people who compare. I'm sure I do it myself, although I like to think of it as akin trying to feel around for your slippers in the dark. You want to be comfortable, but not at the expense of a sudden bright light.

Really great post.

6/12/06, 11:44 AM  
Blogger kfk said...

Well, my kids all eat their boogers and scream in public places better than anyone else's kids. Between them, I'm sure they know most all the lesser cuss words and can make up their own by streaming innocent words together. They don't clean up after themselves like nobody's business and my three year old has been studying Houdini's escape techniques since she became mobile at 6 months. They will all probably need plastic surgery to remove the few unsightly freckles appearing on their bodies, but other than that, they are model material. They are also brilliant......oh and fun, always, always, fun. Want to send Thalia over for a playdate?

6/12/06, 12:01 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

Why are there parents like this in the world?

I wonder what happens when they try to out-do each other, that would be interesting.

6/12/06, 12:19 PM  
Blogger Mother Bumper said...

First off, can you clarify the statment "the move of Arrested Development to cable". Can my beloved AD be found somewhere else? Second, I had to quit going to one of my "sanity break" mommy and me groups because it wasn't a "break". Instead I was surrounded by Mommy's that did things like this: Bumper learned how to roll to one side when she was 3 months and she only would do this so she could be on her tummy. She didn't care to roll around or anything. Bumper did this on the mat in group one day and one of the other Mommy's started quizzing me: how long had she been doing this, when was her birthday, how long did it take me to "teach" her this? HUN? I didn't teach her this stuff - she did it all on her own (not the right answer). Then I had to listen to this lady worry about her little Andrew and the fact that he was a week (a whole 7 days older!) than Bumper and that he hadn't even shown any interest in rolling over. The next week I stupidly returned and lo'behold this lady had little Andrew rolling like a member of Cirque de Soliel and that's when I knew I needed a new group. She couldn't stop gushing about how she spent the last week perfecting his rolling skills. Oy. I've said enough. I've been meaning to get that one of my chest for a while. Thanks for letting me hijack your post (sorry!).

6/12/06, 1:20 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

Hey, I had fat cheeks as a kid and everyone called me chipmunk. I hated it. So I can see where she's coming from but wow.

6/12/06, 1:38 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Whaaa???? DOES SHE KNOW SIGN LANGUAGE???

6/12/06, 2:09 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

What the hell? She actually asked her doctor if the baby's chubby cheeks would go away? Was she planning on having them lipo'ed if they didn't go away?

Crazy, crazy people.

6/12/06, 2:17 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

that poor fucking woman (and her baby). they really do exist, more than we like to think. i mean, "playgroup" at 10 months? we call that DAYCARE and we use that time to take off and get a facial. or go to work to earn money. for sign-language classes.

6/12/06, 2:25 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Those moms suck. Claire has (had) the biggest eatable cheeks, and I was sad when they started to go away. They are still there a bit, but why the hell would she ask a dr about it? what is wrong there?
crazy lady, and poor baby!

6/12/06, 2:40 PM  
Blogger Mocha said...

I keep thinking these kind of women aren't around anymore. That we're all just loving our delicious baby cheeks and enjoying our children without the competition.

Lovely post. I could see the conversation happening.

6/12/06, 2:44 PM  
Blogger J's Mommy said...

It's a sad day when moms start wishing away their baby's chubby cheeks!

6/12/06, 3:06 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I work next to a competitive grandmother. Her granddaughter is three months younger than my boys and I am getting an almost daily report on how much smarter she is than my two apparent stooges. I dont care. My "stooges" are the cutest damn kids I have ever seen and make me laugh every day with their 15 month old humor and development.
The best child-rearing advice I ever got was from my aunt who said "by the time they go to school they can all walk, talk, and pee in the potty. If not, then the teacher will know what to do. Relax and enjoy." I truly believe that if they arent doing "A" yet, it is because they are busy workjing on "B". It all evens out. Unless your mom is a freak. Poor Emily.

6/12/06, 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Gurukarm Kaur said...

You brought out a lot of stuff here, Mom! :-) My own worst instances of competimommy come out when I talk to my sister-in-law whose daughter is 3 mos younger than DD; somehow everything SIL says to me has to be about how her daughter is so smart and cute and smart and, and, and... and I have to SO bite my tongue to keep from saying anything other than wow how nice (but DD did THIS and THAT and ... ok, I really do try to mostly keep it bottled up ;-) )

One of my fave memories along those lines was one time I was in a checkout line somewhere w/DD who was 4 mos old at the time - now this is a kid who was always big for her age - and right behind me was another mom w/a tiny tiny little one in her arms so of course we struck up a little talk - right up until I asked her "how old" and she said 7 mos, then she said asked me, and when I said 4 mos, she looked at me as if I'd spawned a monster. I wanted to say, yeah lady, I have a good big healthy kid here - what's yours? sickly and pale. But I kept it zipped. yeah me! :-)

6/12/06, 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Gurukarm Kaur said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention, SIL's daughter's myspace page name? "Beautifully broken"... what's that say, I wonder???

6/12/06, 3:49 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Gawd I hate those conversations. And, sadly it doesn't get any better. Every football season we live through the "MVP" discussions. And, then there's the Gifted and Talented program at school. Why can't kids just simply grow up? I wonder if throughout history mom's have had to live through this competitive stuff, or if this is a recent development.

6/12/06, 4:11 PM  
Blogger So-Called Supermom said...

Whatever. Your baby was SO much cuter than hers!!!! At 11 1/2 months, you dont need to have a Baby Resume...let them be babies!!!!

Congrats on getting her to talk to you at all! You and I can hang out by the pool sipping adulat beverages while the kiddos frolick in the deep end anytime!! :)

6/12/06, 4:27 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

That is so wrong. Arouind here it happens as newborns. I had a woman ask me what school my kid was going to go to. Maya was exactly 6 weeks old. Like I cared.

The cheeks, that is just mean. I love baby cheeks. WHo would worry about baby cheeks. I fell bad for that child. Can you imagine her life? So sad. All about apearances.

6/12/06, 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

If you go on to have any more children, you will learn to avoid these women like the plague. You may have already.

Each child is a unique person, from birth. To honor and love that child's special qualities in spite of our competitive, compulsive culture is a challenge. And a gift to the child.

6/12/06, 6:21 PM  
Blogger pixie sticks said...

That woman is exactly why I never take my kids to the park.

6/12/06, 7:56 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

Egads. That kid? Will be in therapy by the time she's five.

I hate to say those mom's don't go away as your kids get older. Now, I deal with all the pitying looks from parents when I tell them my kids go to public school. And they don't play soccer.

6/12/06, 8:12 PM  
Blogger Blog-o-licious said...

...I've seen all sorts of mom this week in Disney Hell, I particuarly don't like the ones that ignore and then yell at their children, daffy wenches.

6/12/06, 8:31 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

They are everywhere, and I hate to tell you, that it just gets worse. My kids play baseball. That's it. When I tell people that, they ask what else they do. Um. Nothing.

There are kids on my oldest son's team who play baseball and are on the swim team, or play basketball, and football...one is starring in a play, another is a championship chess player. The other night we had a baseball game, and one kid had to leave and go straight to a swim meet. Yeesh.

I don't usually tell people my kid is in the gifted program because it sounds really snooty and braggy. I'm proud of him, but I'm proud of him for being smart, not proud of him for being smarter than the other kids.

I hope he will want to play an instrument in Middle School next year, but if he doesn't, I'm not going to tear up all his college applications and resign myself to his becoming a professional dog walker. ((shrug))

It's so weird.

6/12/06, 9:36 PM  
Anonymous sarcastic journalist said...

I secretly want to kick that woman.

6/12/06, 9:57 PM  
Blogger kidslovecandy said...

Is Arrested Development still on? Or are you just being clever?


I loved that show.

6/12/06, 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Christina, aka Kitty said...

My oldest spoke really well at a young age but I hated how people acted like this was such a big deal and how proud I must be of her. It was cute but not really a sign of anything---plus, she just started repeating swears younger than everyone else.

Now that I'm up to 3 kids, I can't recall 'when' they are 'supposed' to do anything. Although I did get a big chuckle when I found my 3 year old watching TV with her new Polly Pocket doll shoved into the front of her underpants. Yes, I breed young masturbators! That'll bring a CompetiMommy convo screeching to a halt.

6/12/06, 10:02 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Showtime, AR fans! Keep your channels tuned to Showtime.

Christina/Kitty: Oh to funny. Well better Polly Pocket than Ken, right?

6/12/06, 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Nila said...

Competimommies make great blogging fodder. No wonder therapist are in such demand. Imagine the issues the poor kid will have.

6/12/06, 10:12 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Nice. Future female Doogie Howser with an eating disorder.

*This* is the real mommy war. The one that some mothers insist upon inventing between each other, between their children. Deeply disturbing.

I hope that you were still able to enjoy some daiquiri time. You know, to get that bad taste out of your mouth.

6/12/06, 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Kristin said...

I am more scared of small talk with a competitive mom than of being squished slowly by a stuck elevator.

And that's significant.

6/12/06, 10:39 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

"Oh that is very nice but MY baby just got back from a space journey to Saturn to explore the rings. She found spending time in the Cassini division a slight bore as she recently also discovered how to end world hunger. As soon as she learns to form sentences she will tell you all about it."

6/12/06, 11:13 PM  
Anonymous The Cryer said...

Wow. My daughter had the rosiest chubbiest cheeks for a long time. EVERYONE commented on them. Took me two years to realized they were probably just chapped. Maybe I should put THAT on my Mommy resume?

Love the blog... you have a new fan!

6/12/06, 11:36 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

My CompetiMom was my sister-in-law. Our daughters (her elder child, my younger) were born within 5 months of each other; she'd call me up and try to get into a competition about who had walked first, who had the bigger vocabulary, blahblahblah... and I would continuously give her misinformation, letting her "win," so she'd leave me the hell alone. When my MIL finally told her that my daughter had been doing things almost exactly on track with her daughter all along, she finally got the message and left me alone already.

6/13/06, 12:33 AM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Another brilliant insight into the competimommy. I know a few of these and they make my head spin. Wishing her daughters gorgeous cheeks would go away!? Exhausting.

6/13/06, 1:26 PM  
Blogger tania (urban_mommy) said...

Wow. This is the most mommy-hatin' I've ever read in the blogos. Get Tearfree on the phone, she'll wet her pants.
I was recently at a function where there were a lot of mothers and there was one competimommy there. She was so competitive that when the conversation among the moms turned from coos and hugs to a big complaint department, she did a total about face and started to out-complain everyone. Her precious little prodigy was now the BIGGEST handful and the MOST demanding, etc. etc. Yawn.

6/13/06, 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Oh man. That poor girl. And her poor future siblings, if there are any -- they'll all be compared ad nauseum.

I'm with you -- no mommy playgroups. There are probably some decent ones but I've seen too many that turn into a whole big kid contest.

6/14/06, 7:13 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

This entry is great -- it reminds me of my neigbor. Her son is 12 days older than mine and since the day I gave birth (less than 2 weeks after she did)it's been all "my baby does this and that" all the time. My poor little baby will just "never" catch up the way she talks about how brilliant her child is!

Ugh. You're right it is exhausting!

6/15/06, 2:21 PM  
Blogger Antonia said...

I know a Competimommy. My child hasn't even been born yet, but when it is, Competimommy will definitely be charting its progress.

At the first comment, I'm just going to tell her it's already got a starred First from Oxford University and that its younger sibling, who probably won't be conceived until 2008, is a cosmonaut.

Thank God for all you real women out there. I love you.

6/29/06, 4:42 PM  
Blogger h&b said...

Oh my.

I can relate ( we had one in my laid-back Mother's Group .. I think she left as we weren't *achieving enough*, left for somewhere more *progressive* ).

But the last line .. the cheeks .. the defined the babe, and that the mother saw as a blot on the resumé .. well, that just made me sad ...

Be glad she's in someone elses 'awfully social' group.

People like this ... nobody needs...

Thanks for posting.

9/4/06, 3:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally came up with a response I like for these shrill cretins. It goes like this:

"She's doing what? Oh my gosh! you, like win! You must be like the best mother ever! You win the prize!"
and then I clap my hands. and then I leave.

9/28/06, 11:06 AM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

Ali (Cheaper than Therapy) just called me a competimommy, and sent me this 2 year old link, for being an asshole. She is right.

Dads can be competimommies too.

7/8/08, 5:12 PM  
Blogger LaVonne said...

I do love this one. I re-read it again today. I just posted a new blog and linked to it. Thanks for entertaining me with your blogs!

2/3/09, 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this post!!! And love your blog! Just came across it. Keep up the great work on your new site!!

2/1/12, 1:08 PM  
Blogger Joy Page Manuel said...

That's the kind of mom I try to stay away from all the time. If only I could have a restraining order to keep them as far away as possible, for my sanity's sake!...and their safety! hehehehe......

6/21/13, 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Beth Levine said...

I once had a mom tell me she was pulling her kid from our public school and going private because he was too gifted for the teachers to handle. Proof? The kid's KINDERGARTEN report card was all "Y"s. (Y = Yes, he can do it. Yes, he can walk without falling down. Yes, when he picks his nose, he has stopped wiping the booger on his chair. Harvard, here we come!)

6/21/13, 4:42 PM  

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