Perfect Parent World, Land of Perpetual Judgment
"You couldn't pay me enough to go back to seventh grade."
People love to tell me this. Teachers, parents, counselors, principals, people on the street, people at parties--everywhere I go, people tell me that they shudder at the thought of waking up one day transported back to seventh grade. But when I tell them I'm writing a book on parents' social competition, their eyes grow wide with delight or dismay--and always with recognition. "Do I have a story for you," they say conspiratorially. Clearly, few of us have left seventh grade completely behind.
My goal in this book is to get you to do exactly what almost no one wants to do: Go back to seventh grade and understand how the lessons you learned as a child and adolescent affect the way you parent. And when I say "parent," I'm not just referring to your relationship with your child. I'm including in my definition of parenting your interactions and relationships with other parents, teachers, coaches, school administrators, and children other than yours--any other person in your child's world.
You leave your adolescence with a sigh of relief--you think you never have to revisit it--but you're mistaken. You don't just relive it through your children; you also have countless opportunities to experience it all over again as a parent. These are the moments of growth that we all dread so much: You think you've gotten past your adolescent insecurities, but then you have kids and all your emotional maturity flies right out the window. Of course, parenting can bring out the best in us--but we also have to admit that it can sometimes bring out the worst. At the root of our actions lies a deep-seated need to belong. Let's take a closer look at this need.
Back-to-School Night: Night Out or Nightmare?
Let's review the rite of passage I mentioned in the Introduction: Back-to-School Night. I asked parents to tell me how they felt about that night, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell some of their responses apart from those of seventh graders.
Do Parents Worry About How They Look?
You want to look put together because you're going to see a lot of people you know. Virginia, middle school mom.
I got dressed up to the nines but one step down because I didn't want to look like I tried too hard. Don, middle school dad.
I don't need to dress up for Back-to-School Night because I work. Alex, middle school mom (oblivious to the fact that she was dressed in her power suit).
Do Parents Worry About Running into Other Parents?
My daughter was in a special-needs class and I was apprehensive because I thought everyone would know she was the one who needs the extra help. I was embarrassed or ashamed that somehow it was a reflection on me as being a bad parent. Jose, middle school dad
Do Parents Worry About Whether They'll Fit In?
What sticks out is how uncomfortable I felt. The teacher asked if there were any questions and I had one, but I didn't ask because I was worried that people would think I was an inattentive father. Ronald, middle school dad
I walked into the school and everyone else knew each other--except for me. I just leaned against the wall and thought, "I'm sunk." Arlene, elementary and middle school mom
Excerpted from Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads by Rosalind Wiseman with Elizabeth Rapoport Copyright © 2006 by Rosalind Wiseman. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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