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Bundle brag. But even such intrafamily bragging has pitfalls. Trigiani, who has six siblings, said that when speaking to her mother, she is careful to compliment her own daughter, Lucia, only after doing the same to all of her nieces and nephews. “I start with the oldest, and do it in order,” she said. “Oh, my gosh, Anna just read another book this week, and Matt won that swimming thing.” Only then does she toss in an aside about Lucia. Trigiani calls it “bundle bragging.”
As a parent, I find the unspoken reason this topic sparks such passion is that the same feeling underlies the braggers and the anti-braggers: fear.
Most parents are quietly petrified that we don’t know what we’re doing or, worse, that we’re doing something ruinously wrong. As Trigiani said: “When a parent brags, part of it is pride. And part of it is relief, because this child is doing something wonderful in a world where a lot of bad things happen.”
Bragging about our children is a way of relieving our anxiety that we’re not total losers as parents. The opposite instinct, what we might call “reverse bragging” — “My kid’s more screwed up than yours”; “I’m such a bad mom, I never go to the playground without a martini” — comes out of the same place.
If there is to be a truce in the bragging wars, it’s because both sides want the same thing: reassurance that they’re doing a passable job at something that’s very hard.