The New Mommyjackers: ‘My Kid Is Worse Than Yours!’

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As parents, we can’t help but be proud of our children’s accomplishments. Whether they’ve conquered toilet training, mastered the art of writing or aced their first test, we are thrilled. And maybe even a little bit relieved that age-appropriate milestones have been reached. Most of us try not to ram our kids’ good work, good luck or good fortune down the throat of other parents, though, understandably, it sometimes slips out. I like to think there’s a difference between sharing good news and lording over everyone else. But of course there are the braggarts, big mouths and know-it-alls who hijack each victory and turn it into their own.

We’ve all met them: the soccer dads, stage moms, grandparents and relatives who swear no one is as bright, brilliant or beautiful as their very own talented offspring. Their child isn’t merely smart, she’s gifted. Their son isn’t just musical, he’s a prodigy. And their daughter? She isn’t sporty, she’s a future Olympian. And on it goes. Recently, however, I’ve noticed a new trend in parental one-upmanship: the “mine’s worse” phenomenon.

Your kid has trouble reading? Theirs has a tutor in every subject. Your son scribbled on the wall? They had to renovate when theirs finished with a permanent marker. And scissors. And a hammer. Picky eater? Theirs only eats bread. Plain.

And the list goes on. If you think you’ve got problems, these ‘jackers will let you know, in no uncertain terms, that they’ve got it worse. Much, much worse.

Recently, my son showed his friend’s mom a scar on his arm, sustained when he got second-degree burns as a baby. He’s quite proud of it, though we most certainly are not. The mother asked me what happened, but before I could tell her, she immediately launched into an account of her eldest daughter’s broken leg, fractured when she was nine years old.

She wasn’t merely sharing stories. I never finished mine. Nor was she commiserating with a pal – I barely knew this woman. She was letting me know that even though my son had his first (and hopefully last) ambulance ride as a toddler, she still had the most difficult kid in the room. I remember having a newborn, when the competition to see who had the least sleep was simmering beneath many a playgroup. I attributed it to exhaustion, with a side serving of martyrdom. Now I see it happening in the schoolyard, and I overhear it all the time. Parents exalting in the negative.

I’m guilty of it as well. I’ve found myself saying, “You think that’s bad….” I try to stop myself. Not only out of fear that I’m betraying my kids, but because I have a sometimes-irrational belief in self-fulfilling prophesy. So while I may discuss my kids’ issues and behavior, I try to keep it in the (extended) family. We can learn from each other’s mistakes, and take solace in the fact that we’re not the only ones whose kids may have problems. Call it schadenfreude, or maybe just relief in knowing we’re not alone when our kids are being far-from-perfect.

The “mine’s worse” parent, however, is a whole other breed. They relish the “wild child,” the “bully” and the “bitch,” turning mortification into a triumph. They’re only too quick to own the bragging rights to their child’s most awful traits. As they vent passionately to strangers, I can’t help but think, “I wonder where they get it from?”

(Photo: David Oxberry)