Brag Hags

There’s a bit of a Brag Hag in every mom.

Can’t you just picture Ghandi’s mother on the playground? “It’s the strangest thing, every time I give little Mahatma a snack, he starts passing it out to all the other kids.” Or Bill Gates’ mom: “Last night little Billy figured out a way to wire our freezer, microwave, and stereo together so we ate Lean Cuisines and listened to Raffi tunes with the push of a single button.”

Of course you can’t blame them. If my kids were that impressive I’d be taking out billboards to advertise their accomplishments. As it is, I have a hard time restraining myself in the “my kids are smarter, sweeter and better behaved than your kids” competition. Thankfully Grandma and Grandpa are around to enthrall with tales of Koss’s mastery of important life skills such as double digit scores in Boggle, eating three whole scrambled eggs and unloading the dishwasher without being asked 25 times.

I know my friends don’t want to hear it.

I still have nightmares about becoming like X, this woman from my preschool, who would greet me everyday with polite questions about how Koss was doing until finally, try though I would to resist, I would have to break down and ask about her kid.

The opportunity to crow about her son would magically transform this otherwise mild-mannered mom into the Brag Hag. Turning her eyes red with glee, she would snort and grimace and smack her lips together in delight and howl things like, “Can you believe little Wolverine has started reading and he’s only three? He insists on reading the newspaper headlines to us every morning. Isn’t that cute?”

“Adorable,” I would mutter, thinking her kid must be a total nerd.

Then she would start in about his tee-ball prowess and how many goals he scored in soccer, and how the other day he figured out that she was using too much flour in her chocolate chip cookies and thanks to little Wolverine’s recipe tweaks she’s sure she’ll win the Pillsbury Bake-Off this year. At that point I would tune out-or wake up in a cold sweat-depending on whether this was happening again in real life or just in a very, very, very bad dream.

I know I don’t want to be that mom.

While X was the extreme, it’s easy for moms to fall into competitive conversations, our claims getting more and more outrageous as the dialogue progresses (“Little Johnny sat up and sang ‘Take me out to the Ballgame’ the moment he was born.” “Oh yeah, well my little Abbie learned to speak 13 different Chinese dialects before she was two.”) The problem with these Brag Hag competitions is that no matter who “wins” we all go home secretly convinced that our little darlings are doomed to live lives of mediocrity since they lack the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound or poop solid gold nuggets after eating a banana.

According to one expert, “judging other people’s parenting has become a full time sport with too many people keeping score of every nuance.”

That’s all too true. The fact is that when you walk into just about any situation with your child, on some level you are prepared to judge and be judged. Moms realize this. We all want to believe that our choices are the best ones and we’re looking for confirmation that our way of parenting is the right way (and therefore our child is the best child). And sometimes we brag, just to avoid criticism. Because no matter how secretly critical we are of other moms, and their children, we’re always our own most unforgiving critics.

Isn’t it better to brag than to beat yourself up? I think so. Koss just pooped a diamond. I’m so proud.

Share your bragging rampages with Leslie at email. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 10, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.