Friday, February 12, 2021

Number 2... and that ain't bad

Sometimes I wish the 1997 romantic comedy Picture Perfect had been more popular. It would make my references to the movie 20+ years later a little less random.

Jennifer Aniston and Jay Mohr played unlikely loves back in what I refer to as romantic comedy's "moment." If my taste in movies is any indication, that "moment" lasted about 30 years. Sure, many plot points did not stand the test of time, like carrying around photos in your wallet in order to show people the person you're dating. But one B line plot that stuck with me was Jennifer Aniston's ad exec success when she pitched Gulden's mustard to embrace being the second most popular brand of mustard... "and that ain't bad."

Naturally the folks at Gulden's loved it. And young women everywhere learned to embrace being second best or accepting their second best attempts at love, a career or whatever may be.

From that moment on, second seemed just as good as first. Or, if not AS good, then slightly not as good, but in a way we're OK with. There's a life lesson there for sure.

Second best can be empowering. There is success in nearly making it to the top of any field. Silver medalists are medalists after all. 

But there is one place where second best does not feel as amazing, and that is in the eyes of your children.

My son loves me. I know that because he tells me all the time. He tells me he loves me when he wants some apple cider. He tells me he loves me when he wants to watch TV. He tells me he loves me when he doesn't want to take a bath. I feel loved. Emotionally manipulated, but loved.

It is hard to deny where you stand in the rankings when that same son who showers you with pre-meditated love also seemingly ignores you when it comes time to show some love.

My son had two days of school this week. This is part of a larger problem of why I (and millions of other working women) are cracking up and literally at the end of our ropes. But I'm not here to address that. Thankfully plenty of publications are doing that here, herehere, and here. I'm here because it takes so little attention and acknowledgment of all we are doing in this moment to fuel us further. My husband and daughter show their love and support in cooking, baking and giant hugs. My son... oh, my son...

My son was given two opportunities this week to work on art projects to bring home "for someone you love." The first day, he brought home a beautiful card with 3-D cut out hearts that had been colored with love "For My Valentine." Inside it read: To dad. I am obviously well adjusted enough to understand why a sweet boy would choose his incredible dad to address his first Valentine to. I chose the same man to be my Valentine after all.

On day 2, he returned home with a more intricate art project depicting a rocket and a heart. Now you are probably wondering: who does he love "to the moon and back." And you will probably not be surprised to find out that again, it was addressed: To dad.

I'm fine with it. It didn't break my homeschooling heart. It didn't crush the spirit of this boo-boo kissing powerhouse. It didn't tear at the fabric of my sandwich prepping, stain-removing, bedtime story reading, bed-making being. It's cool. As Jennifer Aniston once taught me: I'm number 2... and that ain't bad.

Ironically, or perhaps tellingly, I followed this week's events up with a comedy contest in which I came in, you guessed it: second place. Still number 2... and that ain't bad! 

So, in my best Carrie Bradshaw impression... I had to wonder: If number 2 ain't that bad, how come it feels not so good? If I didn't take so much time practicing my comedy, could I be number one in my son's heart? Or if I leaned in to being the second best parent, took the L and freed up some spare time, could I pull up my ranking on comedy contests?

The answer is no. I wouldn't want to do either of those things, partially because I am lazy and those options involve me working harder and partly because neglecting my son seems wrong. Attractive, but wrong.

I am doing OK. Things are fine. I can truly say with all my heart: I'm Number 2... and that ain't bad.

To Dad, with love

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