There’s one piece of advice I wish I had listened to when I was a new Mom. I was told by a very loving person that there’s no room for comparison when raising children. I wish I had listened to that bit of advice, instead I found myself falling into the trap of comparison when my first child didn’t follow some of the “normal” timelines.
Each child is so different, that comparing one child to another is just setting up a cycle of pride and disappointment. I was so proud when my first child sat early – at only three months. I thought I had the most unique, talented, amazing baby there ever was. And by extension, that I was the best Mommy in the world. But then, she wouldn’t crawl. She wouldn’t crawl until well past nine months old. So, instead of being proud of my amazing baby, I was stressed out and worried. I was disappointed in my baby, when I should still have been amazed by all she was learning. And I was beating myself up, because obviously I hadn’t done something right.
She started crawling when we went to visit Grandma’s house. We believe the reason she wasn’t crawling before was that there wasn’t a need. Our apartment was so small; she didn’t need to crawl to reach what she wanted. She only had to roll over and get it. She started crawling when we visited with Grandma because Grandma’s house was much larger, so she actually had to crawl to get to where she wanted to be. I’d spent six months worrying needlessly, and beating myself up over something that I didn’t need to worry about. I spent all this time worrying because my baby wasn’t progressing the way she “should” have been.
Another time, when my oldest was about 18 months old, we had a playdate with another 18 month old. I gave both girls a cup of Fruit Loops to have as a snack. Our visitor sat there and sorted all the Fruit Loops into the separate colors, and named all of the colors, before she ate them. My daughter, she just ate them. When I told my husband, he kind of freaked out, and spent the next month frustrated, trying to teach my daughter her colors. She has since learned her colors, and a whole bunch of other things, too. Each child takes their time learning different skills. Patience often is rewarded with seeing the child master the concept he or she was struggling with earlier.
Fast forward a few children, and some conversations started sounding like this: “My (daughter) knows all her colors, numbers, and letters. How’s (my child’s name) doing?” asks a friend. My internal response was “why does it matter to you? He’s not got all those things figured out yet, but he’s only three.” Instead, I took a step back and tried to understand what the mother was really trying to say. The mother was really trying to say how excited she was that her child was learning so much. I complimented her on the progress her child was making. Nothing was said about my child. By this time, I’d learned that each of my children were unique and to not worry about how they compared to other children.
Comparing one child to another doesn’t set anyone up for success. It’s important to make sure each child is progressing and learning. But the only person the child should be compared to is himself or herself. There should never be cross comparisons between cousins, siblings, or friends.
Each child is unique and develops at his or her own speed.
My last baby is a great example of this. According to all the books, she’s not developed “normally” at all. She crawled at about five months, and then started sitting at about six months. “Normally” babies sit first, for a month or two, then they crawl. I wasn’t worried. I knew she’d figure out how to sit sooner or later. Then, she did it again. She didn’t learn to walk until she was almost 14 months old. But, she could stand from sitting at about 11 months. Again, she wasn’t developing “normally”, but she was still developing, growing, and learning. When children stop developing, growing, and learning — that is when it’s time to talk with their pediatrician about their development. But it’s still not time to compare them to siblings, cousins, or friends.
Every child is unique. Each has special qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. Not all children develop in the same way. Comparing them to each other only sets up disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. Each child needs to be celebrated and loved unconditionally – no matter where they are in their developmental progress. There really is no room for comparison when raising children.