Lately I’ve been thinking about ways that I can be a better parent by avoiding the comparison trap. And by that, I mean in all areas of parenting. Comparing my two daughters to each other… Comparing my kids to my friends’ kids… Comparing myself to other moms… Comparing the family I grew up in to my husband’s family… The list could go on and on!
In a word, it can be exhausting.
I don’t know if it’s just the time of year, with the start of school, and new transitions in our lives, but my own anxiety about my girls suddenly seems a little bit overwhelming. And now I’m beginning to realize that when my anxiety increases, so does my tendency to compare. I start to ask myself questions like, when will my older daughter be reading? Will she be able to make friends in her new class? Should I have signed her up for more extracurricular activities?
And yet, even as I do my best not to compare, I realize how much more relaxed I am with my younger daughter. It’s probably a combination of factors, not the least being that I’ve gone through most of the milestones at least once with my child, but also because of their opposite personalities. Here we are, the same parents in the same house raising two kids, and yet they couldn’t be more different from each other! Obviously, our situation is a little bit more complicated because HJ was adopted, but we are doing our best to show them that we love them equally and yet value their individuality, especially as they get older and start to show different preferences in terms of their interests.
When HJ arrived, and I think mainly because I was a first-time mom and HJ had some developmental delays, I kind of fell head-first into the comparison trap. First, it was why is she not walking? She was 15 months old and just learning to take a few steps. To me, that was a cause of endless worry. Then, it was why is she not talking? She was two years old and again only saying a few words. After that, it was why is she not sleeping through the night? Why is she still using her pacifier? When she turned three, it was why is she still not potty-trained? Why is she having such a hard time adjusting to preschool?
Thankfully, in her own time, she met all those milestones. Looking back, I think about how much less stress we might all have had if I had not been constantly comparing her to what I thought was normal. At the same time, I’m grateful she was able to start Early Intervention therapies that helped her achieve those milestones when she was ready.
Even now I feel like I’m always trying to find that balance between accepting the unique way that God made my daughter, and yet giving her the help and support she needs to do the best she can. Most of all, I don’t want her to grow up with that pressure of comparison and feeling inadequate in any way. Helping HJ discover her own identity and be confident in who she is one value that I hope I’m not going to lose sight of, no matter how old she is.