Yes, comparing your child/ren to others who are close in age. It is a horrible thing to do, and most of us moms know that. But, sometimes it is so hard to avoid. It's like walking past the cookie bakery at the mall when you are on a diet. You tell yourself not to look or not to breathe in that AMAZING smell, but you just can't help yourself. Even if you don't actually buy yourself a cookie, you do dream about what it would taste like for a few seconds... Most of the time you restrict yourself to just the thought of it, but once in a blue moon you decide to give in and just buy yourself a cookie. (Ok, now I want a chocolate chip cookie.) Trying to NOT compare your child to another child is kind of like that.
Back on topic here. My point is, it's REALLY hard not to compare children, but it is something even your pediatrician will warn you not to do... especially between your own children! That, to me, is an easier battle. I don't really compare my kids. Sure, I look at their height/weight charts to see what their growth patterns were like at similar ages, but that is more just curiosity and intrigue. I am not doing that to see which child is better or healthier or something. I see my kids as completely different individuals and their age gaps make it too hard to compare. They are at different points in their lives right now, and I honestly cannot remember exactly what my daughter was doing at 22 months to even be able to compare her to my toddler son. Oops. I guess that's what that baby book idea was all about, huh? But because they are MY children, I love them just the way they are, and I don't think any one of my kids as being better than another.
I think The Big C I have the hardest time with is in relation to peers of a similar age. I know that every child develops differently. I know that one child might develop motor skills quicker than another child, but the quick-mover might not speak as quickly as the less-mobile child. But that does not make it any less difficult to prevent yourself from comparing your child to his or her peers.
I blame our society... since someone has to be to blame, of course! In our society, it is all about being quicker, smarter, stronger, thinner, richer, happier, better-looking, etc. And since we are wired to think this way in regards to our ourselves, it is difficult to not apply that same line of thinking to our opinions of our children. I mean, as their parents we want the best for them! What parent dreams of their child being just average? Or worse, less than average? None that I know of!
A little background here... when I first became a stay-at-home mom, I had no idea how to "be" at stay-at-home parent. I read parenting magazines that talked about the ins and outs and rules surrounding playdates, but I had never even been to a playdate to even understand what they were talking about! It was as if I had been a mom for over a year, but I had zero "mom" experience. What was all this they were talking about in these magazines? I had no close mom friends at the time, so I had no clue what I was doing or how to get started.
Well, then I joined a moms group on a website called Cafemom.com in addition to a moms group on Meetup.com. (Cafemom is more for online discussions and such whereas my Meetup.com group was for actually connecting with moms in my area.) And once I started to meet other moms, The Big C came into play in a very big way.
It was as if the floodgates had been opened and I was smacked in the face with this whole new world I had never before known. There were all these discussions going on about various parenting issues that I had never even thought twice about. And while interacting with these people and seeing my child around their children, The Big C started to rear it's ugly head. I started to compare my kids to everyone else's kids. I didn't mean to do it. But, since it was a new thing to me, I was taking everything in... which happened to include their kids' skills and abilities compared to my child's.
I felt questions swimming in my head constantly... "How many words is her son saying? Does her daughter know all her colors? Has her baby started to crawl yet? Why isn't my son rolling over when her son, who is younger by 2 months, has been rolling for a while? Her daughter is speaking in sentences, but my daughter can only do short phrases. She's already started her son on sippy cups? I haven't even thought about them yet! My toddler can't walk as well as hers yet..." And what started off as just questions quickly became fears... and depending on the mood I happened to be in, those fears sent me into a panic! I felt myself constantly worrying that my kids were behind their peers. I realize this is a ridiculous thought process considering that if you were to choose two peers at random, they can be in completely different places with different skill sets... because all kids are different! But still, I want the best for my kids, so I was feeling this drive to know how they were performing in comparison to other people's kids.
And let me just say, I was not alone. While I did not always voice my questions or concerns or thoughts, other moms did. I am so thankful they did, too! The more I would hear other moms talk about it, the more I relaxed myself and realized that these panic moments are a completely normal part of parenthood.
I still fight the urge to give in to The Big C on a regular basis. It's hard not to! I have a 3-year-old daughter whose speech skills are not quite up to par with other, average 3-year-olds. The doctors tell me that she is still functioning within the normal range (based on their 30-second evaluation), but I know that she is not where she should be. I am working on getting her in for speech and language testing to see if she needs any intervention at this point. But, it is definitely an issue that I am very conscious of and sensitive about. It can be difficult hearing other kids her age (or younger!) talking in long, clear sentences when I know that she struggles with those skills. But, instead of getting completely hung up on it, I have decided that I am going to play up her strengths and focus on the things she is good at! Sure, other kids might be better speakers than she, but she might have some skill sets that other parents are jealous of and wishing their children had. Who knows! (As they say, the grass is always greener, right?) And besides, it is NOT a competition.
I love my children, for all their strengths and weaknesses. I don't expect them to be perfect, but I do want them to be happy and loved... and sometimes I just need to step away from it all, reflect, and remind myself of this.
So, as much as you want to give in to The Big C, it is probably in your child's best interest to walk away and redirect your focus. I mean, the cookie might taste good in the moment, but after you're done, you're left with nothing but guilt, regret, or even disappointment.