The kids at the Lowell Spinners. It's not Fenway, but at least we got to a game this season!
I was reading an article on women who chose to bottle feed instead of breastfeed (a choice which I fully support, by the way) and one of the snarky comments on Facebook was something along the lines of “well, I guess if second best is good enough for your kid...” For some reason, in spite of all of the other unsupportive comments attached to the article, this one stuck out for me. Because, you know what? Second best IS good enough for my kids. And I’m willing to bet it’s good enough for yours too.
I mean, think about it. Parenting is like the Olympics. Only instead of trying to medal in one event, you’re trying to medal in them all. I want my kids to be smart (scholarship anyone?). But I also want them to be happy. Oh, and healthy. And I want them to be kind, and do their chores without complaining, and get along with each other, and care for children and animals and the environment, and and and and...If they consistently do these things, they’ve won the golds. All of them.
But man, is it a lot of work to realize those Olympic dreams. The cooking, and cajoling, and reminders about please-and-thank-you, and bickering between themselves and with their friends, and and and and...If they get a silver, I’m going to go ahead and be pleased that they medaled. And I’m going to feel ok about giving myself a silver in the “My Kids Turned Out Just Fine” competition (there’s always room for improvement). I don’t hear a lot of Olympic announcers saying “Sure, the floor routine was great, but how can she do on slalom canoeing?” Turning out well rounded kids in the truest sense means placing in more than one event, and that is no easy feat.
The truth is, we all make choices. Someone’s second best is someone else’s top score. I believe when we can embrace second best, we can be a lot happier because we can realize how much we’re doing right. For example, this morning we woke up in a second best house in a second best town. We could have scrimped and bought a tiny fixer-upper in a town that has a slightly better school system. But we wanted a big yard for the kids to play in, and we didn’t want them to always be the poorest kids in their class. TaDa! Second best it is. And we could have bought a house with a nicer kitchen and a spare bedroom, but then we’d be farther away from work. And again - second best!
We have so many second bests - dogs from the pound instead of the purebreed, clothes from Target instead of Hanna Andersen, frozen peas instead of fresh, Disney Princesses instead of the Paper Bag variety, Graco carseats instead of the Britax, it’s all been an exercise in compromise. But they have pets they love, they’re not cold or unshod, they play endless imaginary dress-up games, they are harnessed in according to the law and reasonable standards of safety.
Of course there are times when gold is the only acceptable standard. Every single time we get in the car, seat belts are buckled. Every single time they bike off the driveway, helmets are on. 99% of the time, fresh produce is pesticide free. But those are my first choices, not yours. I’m not saying parents should never shoot for the gold, but if you don’t sometimes embrace the silver (or, hell, bronze), I’m pretty sure you’ll go batty. It’s just not realistic or healthy to only accept the best for our kids, because there simply is no objective perfection. The only thing we have to do every single time without fail is make sure our kids know we love them and we’re doing our very best by them. We gold in that, our kids will (silver) medal across the board. And that second best is more than good enough for me.