7/31/08

The Insecurity of "Better"

Recently on Twas Brillig, there appeared a hilarious and thought-provoking post. Which happens most every day with that lady. Brillig posed a question. I cannot do her post justice, of course. But since my thoughts were provoked there, she deserves the credit for the subject matter.

Here it is: "Do you often feel that you are, in one way or another "better" than the crowd?"
Right now the poll is like this:
88% YES
11% NO

At first I thought of how often I feel insecure in a crowd. So my immediate response was NO, I don't feel "better" than others. I know we all disagree and judge each other on a regular basis. We see something done differently than we would do it and we think it's wrong, not just simply different. Most of us anyway. But I wonder how much of that comes from how insecure we human-folk really are. It makes us feel better to think about how ridiculous another person's choices are. In clothing, housing, jobs, parenting, marriages, etc.... But in essence, I don't know that we really believe whole-heartedly that we are in fact "better." If we were that comfortable with all of our own choices, we probably wouldn't even be comparing.

We like to be right, to be seen as doing things right. As mothers, we especially want to be seen as doing at least our very best as a parent. It's such hard work, it's pretty frustrating to deal with criticism on top of everything else. Especially when you know you have nothing but the best of intentions for your kids.

But here's the deal. I'm thinking that judging another person's parenting is wrong, and I want to work harder on not doing it. I get that there can be times when there are real concerns that warrant an intervention of sorts, but that's not what I'm talking about.
This is what I'm talking about:
"Their kids stay up way too late!"
"I can't believe they still let her sleep in their bed at that age!"
"He's STILL not potty-trained?"
"Shouldn't they be making him clean his plate? He gets away with everything."
"I can't believe how much TV time those kids get? It's awful."
"They are way too rigid. Those kids are going to turn into robots."

You know the judgements I'm referring to. We've all "heard through the grapevine," at one point or another, someone else's "concerns" about our parenting. And we're probably all guilty of making similar statements at one time or another. It's just plain hurtful and unfair. I add "unfair" because we don't live in each other's houses. We don't have each other's children. So what do we know "better?"

An on-looker might think it quite odd that we don't ever have much of a power struggle about food with Miles. Especially at other people's houses when he's totally distracted. We've made the choice not to make food a big deal. Miles knows that if he chooses not to eat, he's done. No more snacks. But he is not forced to sit at the table until he eats the amount we decide he should eat. I'm not saying this is the "right" answer. This is what works for our family. If Miles takes two bites at a meal, he knows we mean it when we say, "please remember you will not get anything else." We are consistent. In our own way. That boy eats. There are times he eats anything and everything like crazy and times his body must not be starving, or he'd eat. Anyway, all of that explaining to say that we have seen the look on friends and family's faces when we don't force the issue. We've heard the gossip perspectives on this and yes, it's frustrating. But we're still comfortable with how we do it. It's working for our particular child. He's healthy. We don't battle about food as a means to show who's the boss. We don't want food and eating to have a lot of negativity and tension around it.

Do you see how, in all of my insecurity, I felt the need to explain that so well? I must think the way we do it is "better." Or maybe if I see someone else doing the opposite with meal-times, it will make me feel more confident about our choice to think long and hard about how silly it is to do it differently. And it would probably make me feel even more confident if I tell someone else about it.

Even if we think our way is the best way, maybe we could give each other the benefit of the doubt out of respect, knowing that most of us really are doing the best we can with what we know. Just an idea.

6 clicked right here to comment:

Kimberly said...

Oh my yes...so true!

I suffer from both an inferiority and a superiority complex. Very confusing.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Fascinating question.

Personally, I'm very laid-back. I rarely compare myself to others. But I do sometimes feel that pressure when others start to give me "advice." I wish it was always accompanied by your attitude. There are very few things that are fixed in stone when it comes to parenting.

Kristen said...

Oh yes, I agree completely. Any time I find myself feeling insecure, I immediately turn my critical eye on those surrounding me. "Well, she may be gorgeous and fit but she's probably shallow". or "Her kids are so compliant but they have no spirit". It's awful and I hate that I do it.

PS if it makes you feel any better I use the exact same eating tactic. It's a good one.

tracy said...

Hi Heather,
Thanks so much for the nice words on my site! I just got started with Blogher, and it's amazing how it already feels like a *community*... My partner Michael is in the process of giving me a full site redesign, and hopefully it'll go live this weekend at www.houseofclams.com (though tracyglisson.com redirect you there). I love your blog, and I'd love to hear what you think!

charrette said...

Superior? sometimes. Inferior? often. But I heartily believe that judging is one of the most hurtful things we do to each other as women. --And it's been happening since Mary and Martha.

( I agree, Brillig is both hilarious and thought-provoking. It's part of her magic.)

charrette said...

Superior? sometimes. Inferior? often. But I heartily believe that judging is one of the most hurtful things we do to each other as women. --And it's been happening since Mary and Martha.

( I agree, Brillig is both hilarious and thought-provoking. It's part of her magic.)

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