Lessons from Parenthood – Don’t Compare Children
This is the third in an on-going series of posts titled Lessons from Parenthood. Definitely not lessons in parenthood because I know I am not qualified to write about those. Parenthood teaches so many incredible lessons, many of them humbling and hopefully funny. We parents have to laugh at ourselves if we are going to survive.
I recently read a post from It’s Always Autumn about how comparing ourselves steals our joy. How true it is that? When we should be happy we aren’t because we’re comparing ourselves to someone else. As I read this post I kept thinking about my kids. Do you feel like you compare your kids to other people’s kids?
Starting a family can make you kind of crazy, at least it did me. When we had our first child I went nuts, not clinically, but I thought and did crazy things. (At least that’s how I see it now looking back, remember ‘all of life is an education.’) I was completely paranoid that I was going to do something wrong. Not just simple things like forget to put her socks on or put her diaper on backwards, but that I was going to somehow mess her up for life by not playing Mozart every day or teaching her to read soon enough.
As I look back, I can see that at least some of this anxiety came from a need to compare my child to other people’s children; for example, so-and-so’s baby started crawling at 6 months or started talking at 8 months, which made me wonder if I’d done something wrong or that my daughter wasn’t the child genius I was sure she was going to be, when she didn’t meet these milestones at the same time. All the parenting books tell you that children meet milestones at their own pace but it’s hard, very hard, not to compare your child to the others around you.
Can you imagine my complete dismay and paranoia when my daughter didn’t crawl until she was 15 months old?
Here’s the thing that I should have learned from my experience with crawling, but I didn’t seem to pick up until a few kids later – Don’t Compare Children. My daughter didn’t crawl until she was 15 months, why? She walked before she crawled. She hated to be on her stomach and she’s stubborn, not for any other reasons.
When you compare, there will always be someone better – someone faster, smarter, stronger, cuter, taller.
Children are great and amazing but sometimes it can be hard to see that because we keep looking for who we hope or think they will be, instead of who they are. Plus, sometimes their amazingness can be disguised in really hard to deal with…ness. Our children are individuals separate from ourselves. That’s one of the things that make them so wonderfully fun yet frustrating. We have to constantly keep learning from and about them to be better parents to them.
Once I accepted my child for who she was, I was able to see that she was far better than what I had hoped. I’m a better parent because I realize that she is herself – smart, funny, sassy (a little too sassy), and still stubborn.
It’s an interesting thought that so many parental expectations for children come from a sincere desire for children to be happy. We can become blinded to what really does make them happy, which is usually pretty simple, like time with mom or dad, their opinion to be heard, or ice cream.
Our culture seems to thrive off of comparing differences to decide who or what is better. When we compare our children to other people’s children we do them a disservice. We send the message that who they are isn’t enough. That isn’t the message you or I want to send. What good was all that Mozart if we’re only going to tear them down with our expectations later, right?
Parents are not perfect. Children are not perfect.
Don’t Compare Children