I've done it. You've done it. We're all guilty of it. I call it the "one-up." As soon as one of our friends mentions an accomplishment of one of her children for some reason our competitive nature kicks in and we feel the need to top what the person is telling us.
"He made an 'A' on the test? That's great! My son made an 'A+'"
"She's the fastest runner in her class? Super. My daughter is the best tennis player."
You get the drill. In the same way that we as adults try to top someone else's stories during a conversation at a party, as parents we feel the need to prove our kids are just as worthy as someone else's.
Let's face it: We're all proud of our children, as we should be. But no one else is as proud of them as we are, and no one wants to be constantly "one-upped" when they are sharing a success story about their children. Furthermore, our children's successes are theirs and theirs alone. We do not own them, and they are not, and should not be, a reflection of who we are. As adults we need to strive to have our own accomplishments independent of our children's.
I made a conscious effort several years ago to not one-up my friends' stories about their children. When someone tells me a success story about one of her children, I count to three and stop myself from jumping in with my own story. Instead, I focus on being a good listener and praise my friend's child for his or her accomplishment.
What I discovered was that I am able to be truly happy for someone else instead of always comparing. There is a freedom in letting go of the comparisons. It allows us to simply love our children unconditionally for who they are, and who they will become, not to fulfill our own dreams, but to joyously watch from the sidelines as each incomparably unique child grows up to be a wonderfully imperfect adult.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.