March 09, 2011

The Competition

Recently I saw the movie The Social Network.  My favorite scene is the opening one where Mark and his girlfriend break up in the bar.  He's talking about what he needs to do to be noticed and she advises him to just try and be the best person he can be.  The dialogue in that scene is outstanding.  I watched it twice.  I loved the line,"dating you is like dating a stair master."

This hit a nerve with me because we live in an area where it seems people are breeding children to be very successful robots with no flaws.  The number of 'my child is an honor student' bumper stickers on the back of people's minivans is obnoxious.  Even though I now (finally) have a son who can bring these stickers home I refuse to put them anywhere on my vehicle.  They go on the fridge.  I just think is smacks of "my kid is better than yours" and it isn't sensitive.  Maybe I am the sensitive one.  So sorry if I offend those of you with stickers on your vans...

The competition out there is not just in academics or music.  Parents start their kids in sports as soon as they can walk it seems and they don't accept failure.  The yelling from the sidelines is enough to make one want to call social services sometimes.  Okay, I know not everyone is like this and I may exaggerate a bit, but there seems to be a lot of pressure to win in Montgomery County. Those parents with only 1 or 2 kids seem to have an unfair advantage over me, with fewer places to drive and fewer children to prod along.  It would seem we are doomed for last place in many things.  I am okay with that... really.  I just want my kids to be well rounded and happy with themselves.  But they feel the pressure too, and sometimes it gets to be too much for them.  My mother's heart then gets a bit on the defensive and I feel like lashing out at this crazy system where we are taught that if you're not the best you should start digging a hole to hide your head in.  I had to hold my feelings back when a jockish teenager in my Sunday school class seemed to be poking fun at any boy who would play the violin.  I needed to remember he is just a teen, and probably tainted by the competitive environment we are raising our children in.

I am not against competition or achieving at your highest level.  I think it's even somewhat healthy and is what drives us to achieve.  I just think there is a balance there that some overlook.  And there is never room for putting others down for what they choose or for not being the best.  My friend was telling me about an article she read recently about how Chinese parents are the best because they push their kids to achieve.  I informed my friend (not Chinese btw) that she should know that teenage suicide rates are much higher amongst Asian teenagers.  When we lived in Korea we saw the poor kids who would have no play-time at all due to studying.  Many of them, from a very young age, stay up past 10:00 pm every night studying.  During the biggest exam week of the year when high school students take their big entrance to college exams, no one is allowed to honk their horns while driving through the streets.  I found that pretty funny.

So it was no surprise to me when I took my two violinist sons to the music festival this weekend that it seemed about 80% of all the musician children there were Asian.  Some of them played so beautifully I was moved to tears.  I thought they we wouldn't stand a chance because sometimes I let my kids play video games and watch TV.  So you can imagine how proud I was when Little Boy's group tied for 2nd place in his division and Big Boy's group placed 1st!  I overheard Big Boy telling one of his leaders at church "We let the hammer DOWN on those other groups with our Mozart Quintet in C Major YO!"
Yeah, he's not competitive at all.... : )

This is actually Little Boy's group playing a quartet by Telemann
Big Boy's piece is over 10 minutes and won't seem to download.


Teachinfourth said...

You know, I love your thinking and idea of putting the stickers on the fridge instead of the car...

I went to two sets of students' basketball games all season; both teams lost every. single. game. When I talked to them at the end of each, I'd thank them for inviting me and tell them that I'd hoped they'd had a fun time.

Most of the time, they had.

Kelly said...

I think we definitely learn more from our failures than our successes in life, don't you?

M-Cat said...

You have hit it right on. And because so many parents are starting their children younger and younger with things and pushing harder for succes, it raises the bar so that to stay at least even with the norm range, you have to step it up a level.
In some regards, I think it's good, in others, I think society needs to chillax.

At least we need to find a happy medium between screaming our children into perfection and the complete oppisite of catering to them so that "no one's feelings ever get hurt"

Hard balance sometimes

Jack, Merry & T-Man said...

If you feel like people with one kid are "winning" you can just look at me. I have only one kid and I feel pretty good when I get him to school on time. We barely do soccer and at some point his dad will probably teach him to play the guitar. We are not very competitive over here at Rowe Ranch. Except at RISK, of course.

Jess, Andrew and Family said...

You know in Switzerland NO ONE has bumper stickers! Well, I take that back, most people have a small white one that has "CH" on it- which is the country code for Switzerland. I'm going to be shocked when I go to the US and see all of the obnoxious ones again! I especially hate the ones that are intentionally offensive.
I agree 100% with the competitiveness and striving to be the best! Why do kids need this added pressure? Can't they do things for the sake of having fun anymore? Kids need to do their best- not be better than everyone else. All I want is well rounded kids, with good priorities and nice manners. Luckily I think large families and the church seem to really help with this.
I also love that your kids play the violin! I would like to start Sam up next year when he is 8!

Kelly said...

I totally agree with you about the insanity of making sure no one ever feels a loss and protecting everyone's feelings all the time to the point where no one gets to stand out.

Our society is just weird....

Gabriel Fam said...

Kelly - I always love your blogs. I can not begin to tell you how sometimes I wonder if I a bad mother since my kids are not signed up for sports. I have piano and Girl Scouts. Then yesterday my Dad calls and tells my how amazing my sisters son is (she only has one child) skiing and tells me I better get on the ball if I want my kids to excel in something or I will miss the window. WHAT!!! Anyway, enjoyed your blog!!!

Kelly said...

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately your Dad is probably right. If you wait then by the time they start sports they are way behind. It sucks!

Faith, Trust, and a Little Pixie Dust said...

I've enjoyed stopping by your blog. And I really like this post. In our neighborhood, people have signs in their yard (put up by the school) saying Football Player #10, Cheerleader Lives Here, etc. Hunny & I like to laugh about what kinds of signs we could put up, "____ didn't get any F's this year", and . . . I better stop there!

Warmly, Michelle