Sometimes the grass does look greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes it just looks cleaner, more tidy, on the other side of the fence. I look over people’s fences – on Facebook, in short conversations while waiting for the kids, watching familial interactions at ballet and soccer, and opening Christmas letters every year. I know that it can be just a very thin veneer of lush greenery, and that we each choose very carefully what we put out there for the world to see. And yet, even knowing this, it amazes me how a glimpse over the fence can stir up a competitive and perfectionistic pot of emotions that alternately startles and shames me. It happened just the other day at Justin’s violin lesson. Fall festival is coming up. Should Justin play in the competitive or non-competitive class? It’s about Justin. But then it’s not. I make it about me – about comparing myself to other mothers who possibly spend more time with their kids and who remember that it’s student council election day and who bake their own bread and by the time the lesson is over I’ve literally driven myself to tears over my parental inadequacies. Seriously. Where did that come from? I shudder at the thought of being “that mom”… the proverbial stage mom who pushes her kids to achieve in order to fulfill something in her. But sometimes I wonder if somewhere between the ballet studio and soccer field I’ve succumbed. I had a great post-lesson conversation with my dad. Dad is a reader and a thinker. Not the first to throw out his opinion, he has well thought out and deeply held beliefs. So we talked. About excellence and mediocrity. What it is and what it isn’t. What we’ve made it to be in this culture of competitiveness. How easy it is to get carried into the maelstrom of perfectionism. I chose to put Justin in the non-competitive festival class. Truthfully, it was more for myself than for him. He’s 6 and doesn’t even know that violin can be a competition. I’m learning from him. I think that his favourite part of playing violin is the fact that he has 20 minutes of my undivided attention. On most days he likes to practice. He may be a concert violinist. He may be a defensive back. He will decide. And when the waves of parental guilt and insecurity threaten to choke me, I remind myself that this side of the fence, though it may not be clean, is ours to tend to. To be the place where nurturing and love trumps competitiveness and perfectionism. For me as much as for the kids.