Thursday, 3 May 2012

A crabbit message to parents who boast

A serious thought for you this evening. A bit of crabbit thinking. (To offset the party tomorrow evening!)

Why do some people think it's ok to boast about their off-spring, including once they are grown-up? I mean really really boast? I mean, like telling us how much they paid for their house, what salary they are on, how many starred A grade A-levels or GCSEs they got, that they've just got a place at Cambridge (when they aren't friends, merely slight acquaintances)? Do people really think this is ok? Especially when they have no idea at all whether the person they are telling has a very different situation to deal with.

This thought is not theoretical or idle. It has been precipitated by a series of incidents in which slight acquaintances have regaled me or my husband or other members of my family with puffed-up boasts about offspring (including some in their forties!) whom we have never met, and never particularly wish to.

Mr M and I count ourselves lucky enough that our daughters are safe, healthy, and making their way through life bravely and independently. Touch wood. But we have two close sets of friends who have gone through and are going though hell, sheer hell, with unbelievably awful things happening to their children. One couple, close friends for many years, recently lost their gorgeous, talented nineteen-year-old daughter to spinal cancer. Last month we went to her memorial service. The other couple are in an ongoing hell of a different sort. None of them, the young people or the parents, did anything to deserve either of these things. It was horrible luck. And when kids have wonderful success and fortune in their lives, the parents don't necessarily deserve that either. We certainly don't deserve to boast to all and sundry. Share pleasure with close friends, perhaps, delicately, gently, just a little bit, being sensitive to friends' own situations. But not boast. Not talk salaries and figures and exam grades and prizes and Oxbridge places, without any sensitivity at all.

To parents who think it's ok to boast in this way: shut up and just be glad that your kids are alive, healthy, and can wake up each morning with every intention of hitting the day running. Just be glad and be quiet.


  1. Oh yes. They should spare a thought for those whose children don't excel academically. There are some who give the impression that if your children don't get every glittering prize going then you , the parents, are complete failures.

  2. Indeed. In fact, one of the things that precipitated this post was a friend of mine telling me how sick he is of a few parents who make a habit of asking how his daughter did in whatever test has just happened, but they are only asking so that they can boast to the heavens about their child's incredible straight As. And my friend and his daughter are rightly proud of her more modest but still commendable results, gained through hard work. Makes me sick.

  3. It's not just academic stuff. I had to endure five minutes other day of an acquaintance I hadn't met in ages going on about how her daughter had been scouted as a model and had just flown off to Milan, etc, etc. All I could think was, well your life must be boring if that's all you can think to say after all these years.

    1. Yup, and I think once they are grown-up, the scope for unnecessary boasting just seems to grow. As does the unnecessariness of it.

  4. For me the emphasis is on the wrong things with a lot of parents. To be lovely people who can get on in life, who do things for others and who don't regard themselves better than anyone else is, to me, a triumph. To focus on what people do, in the sense of academic, money etc rather than what they bring to the 'life table' is where the problem lies.

  5. Elizabeth Dunn3 May 2012 at 21:44

    I stand in the school yard in Italy and the mothers talk about what they're whipping up for dinner,or lunch or breakfast. Academics and worldly success come a definite second (mostly). And if not I just pretend I don't understand them. Deo Gratias for weird languages.

  6. Charlotte Guillain4 May 2012 at 17:18

    Facebook is a nightmare for this. It's like a never-ending Christmas round robin that never goes away...

  7. I've written about this myself - The Boast by Post (only nowadays it's by e-mail.) I used to receive an annual boast at Christmas about someone's children who were always so amazing. Thing is, the family pretended the sorrier aspects of their life were wonderful too. When the mother's father (a truly lovely man) had dementia, it was 'daddy is marvellous for his age' but the truth was otherwise. How sad to always have to pretend everything is rosy.

  8. The parents of that nineteen year old (and the girl herself) went through the sort of hell I would not wish on anyone. Having other people boasting about their kids just makes that sort of thing much harder. My father's godson died of an osteo-sarcoma and, unless someone has been very closely associated - as we were, people generally have no idea. That is no excuse though, they can surely learn to be more caring and considerate.


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