On a recent trip to visit relatives over Thanksgiving break, I was reminded how much parents (and grandparents) compare their children (and grandchildren). People measure the worth, talent, intelligence, appearance and more of individuals, even when those individuals are only four years old like my daughter.
Here are a few of the comments that were made about my kid comparing her to other children:
- "Look at her, my God she's beautiful."
- "Her teeth are so much prettier than his. He just had cavities at the dentist." (I then admitted how I have not taken my child to see a dentist yet).
- "She never stops talking. She uses so many words and phrases. She's so smart as compared to ____".
- "She is obedient and really listens. She just did what you asked her to whereas ____ didn't listen."
You would think that the above statements would make me feel good as a parent, that I'd be proud to be the mother of this good-looking, perfect teeth, intelligent, well-behaved child. But I wasn't. Instead I thought, sure she is all those things but why compare her to ???? Why is there a measurement stick that she or this other person needs to reach?
It bothered me instead of delighted me, as crazy as that may seem.
But it wasn't just my child that was being compared. No, no, no. I saw other family members comparing their children - one was bad, the other good, even though the two were sitting right there in a random cafe being ridiculed or praised by their mother.
I heard stories about two siblings, how one took the better, high road and how the other one will never reach true potential.
My head was stuffed with so many insights and opinions about comparisons that I began to literally feel sick. I wanted to stick out my tongue, place both fingers in my ears and just run away to a quiet place.
I'm heartbroken and disappointed. But most of all I'm worried that I'm going to do the same thing with my two children. Here I am with a four year old daughter and I'm also five months pregnant with a second girl on the way (YES, ITS A GIRL! And I couldn't be happier to have another female to bring up in this world!) BUT....How can I prevent myself from measuring my two girls against each other?
How do you NOT compare your children? Chances are, they will be nothing alike. Chances are, they'll look different. They may sound different. They will have different likes and dislikes. One will be shorter, rounder than the other. One will love science experiments and one will love reading fiction. One female will be boy-crazy at an early age and the other will be a late bloomer. How can I treat them each as unique people without them (and me) feeling like they need to be equals on every trait, skill and goal in life?
I think about this. It worries me when I still have one in the womb.
Furthermore, how do you NOT compare your siblings against yourself? How do you NOT compare your parenting skills against another person?
I am concerned because I'm guilty of this nasty habit too. I hear myself comparing me to my sibling, to my friends, to co-workers, to other mothers, wives, etc. And when I do, there is almost always disappointment. Even if I feel a slight achievement above another person for a few minutes, hours or even days if I'm lucky, I later feel remorse for having those thoughts. So thus, disappointment and disillusion are inevitable.
Maybe there isn't an answer. Not unless you live up in a tree in India or on on a remote island. But even Tom Hanks' character felt guilt and remorse over his volleyball Wilson in the film Castaway. We can't escape it completely, I suppose.
I just hope that I learn to see the good values in both of my children without needing/wanting them to be too much like the other. I hope that as I become older, I realize the dangers of unnecessary comparisons like the above statements said by family members. I hope that I will remember that in the end - how you looked, talked, the job you did and how well-behaved you were doesn't really matter all that much. Instead, I think it's more about the life you led, the people you touched and the path you chose.
I hope I'll read these words I just wrote every so often to stifle myself when I begin to compare one person to another.