By Rachel Ostlie
Do you remember back in elementary school? Everybody knew where everyone else stood in the playground pecking order. There was the “smartest kid,” the “fastest kid,” the “class clown,” and the “best draw-er.” Toward the upper elementary school years, I think we started developing a fashion sense and then kids were sorted into “cool” and “not cool.”
I had a flashback to those days today at the library. I take my little baby there for a 0-24 mos 'Moms and Babies Book Time' class, and big baby tags along. Today, because it was fiercely cold outside, we stuck around the library so the kids could play for a while out of the house. At the kiddie computers with touch screens, my big baby made friends with a mom and two kids (boy-girl twins) at the next computer over. The mom was super friendly and included my daughter while I chased little baby around the book aisles.
At first blush, this seemed like the perfect mom friend. Her kids were well-dressed and well-behaved. She acted like an early childhood education major with her way of narrating everything and encouraging participation from the trio of toddlers crowded around the baby computer game. But as our kids swarmed from one activity to another (Puzzles! Ship with puppets! Reading Tree with beanbags!) the feelings started. Feelings of inferiority, with a dash of jealousy. Yes, her kids were well-dressed, but they were better dressed than mine. Yes, her kids were well-behaved; they sat quietly while she read them a story, while mine continued jumping around on the beanbags. The sorest spot? They were just barely two, but babbled away in full sentences, using words like “tunnel” and all their colors. My big baby daughter, who turns three this month and is growing up with both Spanish and English, is nowhere near their level. In fact, when the über-mom asked her name, big baby held up her hand, fingers upward, and said, “Two.”
Each minute that passed, the debate raged within me. To stay, or to go? To make friends, or to just take the hook out of this fish and never turn back? Was my own insecurity as a mother a good enough reason to quit this relationship before it began? Just because I wasn't the smartest, fastest, funniest, or best draw-er, should I shy away from the monkey bars?
I'm still not sure what the right answer is... I'm almost thirty, and have been married for eight years, but I still have a lot to learn about relationships. How much of it is about what I get, and how much is about what I give? And how do my kids interplay in this give-get ratio? I'd welcome any suggestions or words of wisdom, but most of all, I hope this post reminds others that they aren't alone. No matter where you go, there will always be someone who makes you feel (in words or deed) that you'll never measure up. Then again, maybe next time you will be the superhuman über-mom everybody's jealous of...
Rachel is a Baby Bunching mom of a 3-year old and an18-month-old boy who are already being mistaken for twins. She lives in the Chicago area.