Carolyn Hax: Stopping the baby-bragging

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 25, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Our circle of friends has babies born within a few days/weeks of our child. This is a great situation for us, as they have built-in playmates. The only negative is one couple who are obsessed with trying to compete with the rest of us. First it was who was finding out the gender first, then it was who was going to deliver first. Now that the babies are here, it’s about the weight of the babies/who has teeth first/who rolled over first, etc.

What is the best way to handle such silliness? We have tried changing the topic, but that hasn’t worked. We suspect a good deal of this stems from insecurity. The couple is now obsessing about a second child.

Competitive Parenting


No, all of it stems from insecurity.

This couple might find their way out of your social circle eventually, since different kids follow different trajectories with sports, hobbies, clubs, even schools. In the meantime, though, humor, topic changes, and the occasional, “Hey — they’re all great in their own ways and on their own time,” are all your allies in this anti-silliness campaign. Each is a way of declining to enter the competition, and that’s the only way you’re going to keep it contained.

Two side notes, though:

1. Watch the “we” (“We have tried changing the topic . . .”), especially if “we” includes other members of this circle of friends. Then you’re veering close to the ganging-up line.

2. Competitive people are most annoying to other competitive people. I say this as one myself, so I’m not pointing fingers. I’m just noting that the more mindful you are of where your kids falls on the distribution curve (as most parents are, given that little voice that nags, “Is my kid okay?”), the more vulnerable you’ll be to someone who is overt about it. Something to have in mind when these parents are getting on your nerves, to keep you off the ledge.

Re: Competitive Parenting:

A good response (for competitive anything) is to smile serenely and say, “You win.” If they don’t get a clue and grow up, eventually they’ll get so miffed they’ll stop hanging around. Either outcome is a win for you. (Heh.)

Anonymous

Heh. Reminds me of my sister, who responds to kid-bragging with, “Yes, s/he’s clearly a genius.” It’s funniest with first-to-get-teeth bragging, but it keeps working through college-admissions bragging, career bragging and countless other applications.

Dear Carolyn:

What do you do about a friend who always pushes you? I’m a college student, and a friend of mine is pushing me to go on a trip I cannot afford. I’ve told her this and she still keeps on pushing me. This is not the first time she’s done this, and I really just want to cut ties, especially since she is not really a close friend and I have so many other good friends who don’t push me like this.

Pushy Friend

Then say so. Seriously. “I’m going to say this once: Stop pushing me. If you continue to push, I will walk away” . . . or hang up, or block her texts, or whatever form of communication you need to shut down after a clear warning. Then do it. Boundaries 101.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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