about competition

There is one other thing in which I have gladly exchanged the mind frame of my original culture for the one I am living in contact with (to be precise, because I have not yet been able to fathom where the culture I am living IN is positioned on this matter). As I browse through my facebook news feed, the children of my Romanian (rooted) friends or of their friends win prizes. They go to tournaments while being six. There is a couple of four year olds having won a trophy for style dancing. There are the inevitable competitions for the most beautiful baby (to be fair, the most of those I have seen so far were in Belgium). In any case, I am surprised to see myself cringe from this reality of how children are raised/socialised in a culture in which I grew up. It may simply be because my own experience of the piano as something you do in order to take part in interschool competitions and not for your own pleasure was a bad one. Or it may be more. It may be something I am thinking of in the framework of the whole Tiger Mom debate on parenting blogs (without though managing to be sucked up in the whole dispute enough to read the basic texts people debating are starting from).

I find myself acutely on the fence between the feeling that I should reassure my children that they are loved unconditionally, whatever their achievements, and that I should teach them that they can enjoy the things they do irrelevantly of the results they get, on the one hand, and the realisation that I really like being good at what I do and that I have become this person by being trained to work hard and obtain my praise only at the end of a serious effort, on the other hand. The unease with which I look at the little achievers in Romanian photos is not competitive in nature (oh, why didn’t I get mine to perform this way?), it is coming from my utterly changed point of view – should they be competing at that age, shouldn’t they just enjoy the dancing, whether they are good at it or not? All this while obviously realising my own hypocrisy when I sit all tense in front of the gymnastics championships – Yay, another gold medal won by a child who has been training and competing in the hardest of circumstances since they were three or four!

I do realise this is an intensely ideologic debate – absurdly, the communist culture in which I was raised had given birth to a competition for being the best at anything (and getting your children the best chances by creating prodigies insofar as possible) in order to get out of the uniformity, while the mild leftist culture in which my husband grew up made sure its children grew up mostly balanced and unambitious, yet being completely capable of being extraordinary in their field (on brains, though, not necessarily on hard work). At home, we have had innumerable disputes about the school systems, the culture of effort (which does get you to finish stuff on time) versus the culture of asking why the effort should be made (which, in life, can eventually avoid useless battles). Within our own parenting strategies, I will always represent the more effort-oriented point of view, just because the discussion is polarised. But outside, while browsing my newsfeed, I have definitely become `the Dutch lady`, as they call me in my street…




2 gânduri despre “about competition

  1. Since I’m on a commenting spree, I’ll take a shot at this one as well 🙂
    I don’t want to be „mauvaise langue”, but I think that the feeds with the kids you are talking about concern not only a different view of competition instilled in the children’s education, but also a need for the parents to show something off. If the parents themselves don’t have too much achievements to show off, at least they can do that with their kids’ prizes. It’s not necessarily a Romanian attitude, but I think that the concept of mine is … than yours is more common in present day Romania, applying from cars and houses to kids and sometimes even wives :))
    I guess a short version of this showing off can be found in the avatars people use for themselves on ymess, fb, gravatar, etc – most likely pictures of their kids (yours doesn’t count :)) … along the lines – I might not be too beautiful…but look at my boy/girl! Maybe it’s the same with the competitions …I’m awful at dancing, but wait to see my kid!

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