This past weekend I was at an event with a few other parents who had children all relatively close to the age of my son. It was nice sitting with other adult couples who had toddlers and babies. During the party we all talked about our kids because, naturally, children are all that parents talk about. We related to one another, laughed about eating and sleeping habits, and discussed just about everything from C-sections to pacifiers. (This may seem boring to those of you who don’t have kids but trust me, these conversations are riveting to parents.)
Throughout our conversations, I noticed something starting: our son knew less words than the other kids. I instantly became worried. In retrospect my worries were absolutely ridiculous, but nonetheless I went home and wanted to whip out a dictionary and prep this little boy for his SATs.
I had that playground scene from the film Baby Boom in my head. For those of you who have never seen Baby Boom, you should. It’s a great film! For those of you who have seen the movie, I am talking about the scene where the main character (C.J., played by Diane Keaton) is sitting in the park with other moms. She overhears one of the moms lamenting the fact that her child did not get accepted into the “right” preschool.
If she doesn’t get into the right preschool, she’s not going to get into the right kindergarten! If she doesn’t get into the right kindergarten, I can forget about a good prep school and any hope of an Ivy League college!Baby Boom, 1987
When I got home I studied my kid intensively. I watched closely to see how he moved, what sounds he made, how he organized his toys, etc. Frankly, for two days I drove myself crazy. I was worried, checking to see if he was developing correctly, and even looking into signing us up for some sort of Mommy-and-Me class. I blamed myself! Maybe he would have the designated number of words down for his age if I was somehow a better mother. Does he watch too much Sesame Street? Should I buy a baby dictionary and study it with him? Maybe he should listen to Mozart every day for his brain development.
Then, after completely exhausting myself, I had a moment of clarity and realized that this entire debacle was nothing more than the reaper of mommy guilt breathing down my neck. I looked hard at my child. He smiled back and walked on over to me, threw his arms up and demanded a hug. He’s fine, I thought to myself, Perfectly fine. He is healthy (Thank God!), goofy, kind of spunky, has the best giggle, and loves life so much.
We Don’t Deserve to Drive Ourselves Crazy
Mom guilt is real. For the moms who are reading this, I do not have to convince any of you that mom guilt is real, painful, annoying, and even depressing. Let’s face it: mom’s cannot win. We are either criticized for staying home with our kids, or criticized for working outside of the home. (Notice how I said “working outside the home”? All moms work! We just work in various locations!)
In addition to the mom guilt we face daily because of our jobs, we do not deserve to also drive ourselves crazy over nonsensical issues. In reality, if a one-year-old knows one word or two words, there is not much of a difference here. I am not advocating to view parenting with a laissez-faire attitude. Rather, I am advocating for us to give ourselves a little grace and patience. Our kids will develop on their own time and if they accelerate or take their time a bit in various areas, I think they’re okay. Now, I am not a pediatrician, but I do know that if I was new to learning something I would be mad if someone was disappointed in me for taking my time or learning at my own pace.
We Don’t Deserve to Drive Our Kid’s Crazy, Either
With all of that being said, it’s not fair to drive the kids crazy, either. If I forced our son to stop watching all Sesame Street and instead only listen to classical music after reciting the opening lines to The Wasteland, I am pretty sure he would be unhappy. I also know that if he couldn’t figure something out and I kept forcing him to try, he would be exhausted, frustrated, and downright mad. I know he would feel all of these things because I, too, would feel all of these things.
I genuinely do not think that knowing one more word, walking a week sooner, or even eating solid foods at the “appropriate” time will prevent kids from getting to the college of their dreams. I do think, though, that making children feel stupid or inadequate will prevent them from ever feeling good about themselves and all that they do and could accomplish (and this could prevent them from achieving their dreams). Our kids are not science experiments that we hope succeed. They are real people with dignity who are trying to navigate this crazy world just like any adult. They’re just smaller.
We Need to Stop Comparing
Mothers need to stop comparing. As this blog post suggests, we need to stop comparing kids, but it goes even deeper than that. We need to stop comparing our parenting styles, how successful or developed our children are, which school districts our kids are in, how much organic foods our kids eat, breastfeeding versus formula feeding, and everything in between. Of course it is good to talk about these things openly! We can even learn from one another. However, when the comparisons come from a place of malice, no one is helped or supported.
Our parenting journeys are all different. It should not be expected that every single kid will be the same, or that every parent will be the same. We do the best we can because we (and our kids) deserve better.