While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On competitive parenting:
I served as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English. In my school the students were divided into three class groups — we'll say 1, 2 and 3. The 1's were generally smart kids who were very focused on getting A's. The 2's were generally just as smart as the 1's but not as focused on getting A's and "winning." The 2's also tended to be more creative and well-rounded than the 1's.
Once when I assigned the students a project to write a play, I found the stories of the 1's to satisfy the project and get A's but the plays of the 2's were far more interesting/creative even if their English wasn't as good as the 1's. One group of 2's even took a huge risk and did a spot-on send-up of me (the teacher). I have rarely laughed or applauded so hard and long as I did for that group!
The 3's? Well, they were for the most part not as bright as the 1's or 2's but they were sweet, wonderful kids who I think, in the end, I liked the most.
When my first husband and I announced to my parents that we were getting married, the following conversation ensued:
Mom: "You'll have to have the rehearsal dinner somewhere with dancing."
Dad: "I'll pay you a thousand dollars to elope."
Mom: "Oh Bruce. You'll have to have a breakfast too. For the people coming from out of town."
Dad: "Two thousand."
Mom: "What colors do you want for the reception?"
Dad: "Five thousand."
We eloped to Greece.