So Long, Adley!
As I was randomly clicking through channels one Monday night, I got hooked on “The Voice,” an “American Idol” – like show where the judges/coaches (Cee-Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Christina Aquilera and Adam Levine) choose singers they like based only on their voices. An attractive young woman named Adley Stump was singing and, when she went back to the area where parents and friends wait with host Carson Daly, I realized that I know Adley’s mom. I went to high school with both of her parents, Greg Stump and Terry Noonan, in Stillwater. Naturally, I had to keep watching the show to root for the hometown girl and, more importantly to me, to support her mom who was obviously so excited and proud. I would be, too.
To get the bad part out of the way, Adley didn’t move on. Last night she was pitted against a fellow team member from Texas — a 17-year-old country crooner who, in my humble, non-musical opinion, wasn’t that good. Okay, I know I’m prejudiced, but did you all watch it? They sang Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” (a song I happen to love, but not as country song). I’m no singer and have no business giving a critique, but the 17-year-old sounded off-key to me. I just don’t see her being the next Taylor Swift. Adley should have won.
Anyway, I would have cheered for Adley, regardless. Here’s why. While I don’t know Adley’s mom Terry well (she was a year or two ahead of me in school), she was always nice to me, and when I’ve bumped into her in Tulsa on occasion, we chat briefly — we have that Stillwater/OSU connection.
And I think it’s important for moms to support one another rather than compete with one another.
Over the years, I’ve learned to steer clear of competitive moms. You know what I mean — the moms who are constantly pushing you to pit your children against theirs. One clue to this kind of mom is if she asks you about your children, then doesn’t listen, but jumps in and goes on and on about her child. Or can turn any conversation into a conversation about her child. You can be talking about heart disease and she can tell you how her child did the best science project in the history of elementary school on heart disease. A hallmark of this mom is that she can’t ever, ever remember anything you’ve ever told her about your child.
Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing about other peoples’ kids. It’s fun. It’s give and take. I love celebrating the accomplishments of my friends’ kids and listening to the difficulties as well. My friends do that for me, too. But we’re not competing. We’re sharing. We all need that. You can tell the difference if you feel better after your conversation or if you feel anxious. If you find that you’re continually feeling anxious and uncertain, steer clear of this person.
Then there are the moms who let you know, usually randomly, that they’re taking their 3-year-old to a chamber music concert, or teaching their 2-year-old to read, or giving their 4-year-old special algebra lessons. And when they see that you don’t do this for your child, they look at you with sadness, knowing that your child will be destined to a life of average – ness. These moms used to sort of make me feel backed in to my anxiety/insecurities corner, but I kept reminding myself that my kids would be okay. And they are.
Like Adley, who discovered in college that she had a talent for singing, my kids have discovered (sometimes in spite of me) their own talents and interests along the way. Sometimes it takes trial and error. Sometimes it takes falling flat on your face. But as I stand on the sidelines watching, sometimes dusting off and sometimes cheering them on, I feel pride, not necessarily in their accomplishments as much as in the lovely, caring and interesting people they’ve become. Did they go to Ivy League schools? No. Are they at the top of their class? No. Are they the best in anything? Well, maybe. They’re the best of themselves. Period.
I think at the core of competitive parenting is a huge, ugly hole of insecurity and fear. We all recognize it. I know I’ve had to fight that insecurity as a parent through the years. The times that I’ve succumbed to fear (and outside competitive pressure) are the times that I’ve lost sight of who my kids are. When my expectations were completely out of whack with the three people living in my house. Yes, I gave birth to them, but I didn’t create their strengths, weaknesses and personalities. I looked at my job as trying to understand those things and work with my children so that they could become the people they want to be.
So when I see Adley Stump up there on stage on TV, and I see her mom being so proud and supportive, I’m right there supporting her, too. I wish Adley great success in pursuit of her dream as I wish that all parents get to see their children fulfill their dreams. And we would all do well to remember that our children’s dreams are theirs to imagine and pursue, not ours to create and control.