Today’s topic is one of the greatest sources of inter-parental strife: comparison.
I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t compare your kids. As far as I can tell, comparison is hard-wired into the human brain. The way our brains make sense of the world around us is by categorizing and comparing. Even simple description is based on comparison: “My son is the tall blonde one.” This sentence only makes sense if you know what blonde is as compared to brunette or redheaded and what tall means when you’re looking at a group of kids playing.
Comparison, like anger, is not evil by nature; it’s what you do with it that counts. I naturally compare my kids’ sleeping habits (hallelujah that numbers two and three have both been better sleepers), their initial responses to solid food (they all made faces—but my current baby doesn’t like baby food, he likes big people food), their growth (each child has been bigger—I’d better stop while I’m in one piece), their likes and dislikes.
I can tell you that Peatie has always been a giggler, while Goobie is more reserved; Ender is the smilingest baby anyone has ever met. I can tell you that Peatie is fascinated by the way things work and is compiling a mental atlas to rival Rand-McNally. I can tell you that Goobie has always been excellent at doing puzzles and that she speaks almost as well as her big brother (more clearly, by most accounts, but with slightly less mastery of complex sentences).
Knowing this does not make me a bad mother; in fact, I’d argue that good mothers ought to know the differences between their children (and maybe even between their children and their children’s friends). It’s what you do with this knowledge that defines its merit. Hopefully you celebrate each child’s unique personality and accomplishments.
Obviously, parents realize that not all personality quirks are laudable. I’m trying to help Peatie develop more responsibility for his things, urging Goobie not to do things solely for their brother-antagonizing power. But in general, each child’s personality and accomplishments can be celebrated separately, comparing without lamenting.
This morning, Peatie made an A all by himself. He’s been interested in making letters for a while, but he hasn’t been able to control his hand well enough to create anything recognizable until now.
Goobie “made Gwamma nice and pwiddy.” She’s been making a few letters recently—a random G, L, V, or ? added to a page of scribbles—but this was her first recognizable picture.
And this afternoon, Ender figured out how to get his knees under his gut, dig his toes into the carpet, and propel himself forward. He’s not moving fast, but he’s now a baby on the move.
Three achievements on three different kid-timelines. Three reasons for this Mommy to be so excited about my kids’ development and proud of their success. Now if only my perspective were as uniformly healthy when it came to observing other people’s children, I’d be all set! (My success with rational inter-family comparison depends on the day.)
What’s your take on comparison? Can you share stories of your child (or listen to others’ stories) without feeling like you’re playing a game of one-upmanship with friends? Can you view one child without drawing unhelpful comparisons to others?