And first prize goes to… |

And first prize goes to…

I’ve seen my share of over-the-top birthday parties and super-competitive moms, everywhere from the ice rink to the grocery-store aisle. I probably have even been accused of it myself a time or two, and let me just apologize for that now. But either young moms are getting worse, or I’m getting too old to tolerate it. Maybe both.

When toddlers are being shuttled to music class, ballet, gymnastics, swimming and violin; and when new moms judge each other openly about the contents of their kitchen pantry (“it isn’t even organic!”), I can’t help but wonder: what is this crazy competition, and what exactly is the prize?

When sideline snacks at a soccer game turn into a weekly gourmet feast in a decadent show of one-upsmanship, and when teacher appreciation week makes teachers blush awkwardly at the outlandish show of gratitude, we’ve missed a point sharp enough to impale us.

Sideline snacks are meant to sustain our young offspring during a hot Saturday morning game, in which they are running up and down the field in a great show of youthful ability. A slice of orange will suffice. And it doesn’t have to be organic, but suit yourself. I assure you the kids won’t care.

Teacher appreciation week is a chance to say thank you to your child’s classroom teacher in case you missed the other 180 opportunities throughout the year. I actually had a parent call and ask me if $75 was too much to give her child’s teacher because she didn’t have time to do anything “special.” Um … yes! Whatever happened to children drawing pictures for their teachers? Nothing says “I love you” more than a macaroni and dried bean-decorated heart.

And don’t even get me started on birthday parties. Having four or five friends over for a cupcake is downright quaint when you could hire the House of Bounce for the entire fourth grade.

Could we all just take a breath here and relax? Our vacations have gone from the Black Hills to Bora Bora; our homes now boast not one, not two, but seven bathrooms; our parties have literally erupted into celebrations that, quite frankly, are getting harder and harder to top. It would be great if we could just point our fingers at affluent Americans as the culprits in hyper-parenting, but it’s a cultural shift that couples competition with appearance, and no matter what size your bank account we are all subject to the allure of looking good. The problem is with that kind of thinking, we send a message to our children that it’s better to look first class than to be first class.

There’s a certain elegance and appeal to keeping it simple. In the blink of an eye our kids will be grown and I doubt any of us will remember what snack we took to the ball field. But if we’re lucky, we might just remember a shock of blonde hair streaking toward the goal line on a cool September morning, band-aids on the knees and mismatched socks, with a grin from ear to ear.

No, parenting is not a crazy competition; so relax, you already have the prize.

Charla Belinski’s column appears every other Sunday in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

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