When I ranted – er -posted recently about a particular brand of holiday newsletter, it seems I struck a nerve. Apparently I’m not the only one out there who grits my teeth as I slog through letters about scrubbed and starched seven year-olds that read like early admission applications to Harvard.
Well, my brilliant cyber-friend, Russ came up with a great idea. He suggested that we create our own newsletter. A brag-fest, if you will – where we all could shout our children’s accomplishments (and ours) from the rooftops – in this sacred place of understanding and support.
And so, here it is.
I’ve temporarily named it the Community Brag Page, but if you have a better idea, I’m open to any and all suggestions.
The idea is this -
When you have something that you want to share, you can leave it in the comments on the page. When you need a little inspiration, you can come on back and read through what others have written or read back over your own entries and see how far you’ve come.
Feel free to talk to each other there - it is an open forum. I will moderate any comments that I don’t feel are respectful and supportive, but otherwise the space is yours.
However, I can’t just leave it at that.
C’mon, you know me better than that by now, don’t you? You know that as happy as I am to create a safe space for us here, I also have to say something that includes the words (or at least the concepts of) ‘awareness’ and ‘preaching to the choir’. Roll your eyes if you must, but it’s just how I’m wired; so bear with me, won’t you?
There was one particular comment on the newlsetter post that just wouldn’t let me go.
The comment said,
I was seated next to one mom who for an entire soccer game told me about her son’s grades (and he knows he had better not bring home anything lower than a B, that is just not acceptable, blah blah blah). I wanted to shout out, oh yeah well my son went from being in a self-contained classroom to being completely mainstreamed where he is almost passing every course (just barely). But I don’t think she would have shared in my joy.
My first instinct was to write back, “That’s why we’re here. WE share in your joy and get it COMPLETELY! Hoooray!”
True enough, but days later I was still chewing on it.
We have all sat next to the ‘my kid knows he had better not bring home anything lower than a B’ mom. I’d be hard pressed to find one among us who hasn’t felt the suffocating pressure of that conversation.
But I wonder …
What would happen if we were to turn to Alpha Mom and say, “Wow, that’s great for your son. We don’t focus quite as much on grades with our kiddo, as he’s got some challenges that render them far less important to us than perhaps they are for you.
We’ve been celebrating some great news at home lately. My son went from being in a self-contained classroom to being completely mainstreamed where he is almost passing every course. We’re really proud of him.”
What would happen?
Periodically, there would be conversations that would end abruptly and ackwardly. Insecurities run deep. But hey, remember the after school specials of our youth? Like the girl who needs to dump the guy who is pressuring her to have sex with him, we don’t need those kinds of friends anyway. And our kids don’t either. It might just be a nice way to weed them out.
But I’ll bet dollars to donuts that far more of the time, the conversations would be far different – and far more rewarding – than we might think.
That kid getting perfect grades? Turns out that Alpha Mom’s concerned that he doesn’t seem to be making any friends and she has no idea what the hell to do about it. He can recite the damn encyclopedia but he’s never invited another kid to the house. She never thought she could talk about it before.
Tommy is lettering in three sports, but he breaks out in hives when he has to read aloud. His parents keep it quiet, afraid someone might think less of him – of them.
Jenny won the science fair but she is wracked by overwhelming anxiety and cries herself to sleep. Her parents don’t know where to turn for help.
Everyone’s got SOMETHING going on in their lives. I have yet to meet a soul out there who’s life actually unfolds like those newsletters.
So what if we call bullsh-t? What if we lead by example? What if we start by saying, “It’s OK if things aren’t really the version of perfect we all thought they’d be?”
And what if, by so doing, we show each other (and our kids) that it’s OK to talk about the hard stuff too? What if by bringing to light our own challenges we can help others to see that it’s far more important to support each other than it is to impress each other?
If we trumpet our kids’ achievements – not just here, but on the bigger stage – on the soccer bleachers and at PTO coffees and church socials and family reunions – we may just be able to broaden the world’s definition of achievement. They may just come to see how amazing our children are and begin to appreciate just how hard they work for every damn thing they accomplish.
Can you imagine what it could do for us? To come to a place where we can all celebrate our successes together? More importantly, can you imagine what it could do for our kids?
What are you waiting for? Start bragging.