“Don’t compare yourself to others” is the sagely piece of advice passed from generation. “Be the best you you can be and don’t worry about the rest,” because that’s all anyone can expect…”Life is not a competition…” but isn’t it?
How is it that we keep saying don’t compare yourself to others when our entire society, practically the entirety of our daily lives is based on comparison. Success is, after all, based on being better than everyone else, and it’s what we all strive for. Who doesn’t want to be the best? So, when parents birth and raise their children on comparisons, how can we expect ourselves to do any differently?
It starts in pregnancy. The monthly and then weekly visits all in an attempt to calculate the size and the position of the fetus. The mother’s attempt to gain the right amount of weight ( at least not anymore than average). It’s a time of constant evaluation and comparison to make sure that you are having a healthy and “normal” pregnancy. Even down to the weekly phone notifications reminding you what size of fruit or vegetable your baby should be by now. And then even after baby is born it all continues.
A few months ago, I went for my daughter’s 5 month checkup. They gave me the essential information in percentiles and told me we would get the exact numbers later. She did the physical and concluded by saying that baby bean’s physical development seemed on track (at least for a foreign baby), BUT her social and language development seemed a little slow. My heart had dropped and I remember feeling a slight pain in my chest. I know it sounds dramatic. However, I had been anxious leading up to that appointment, because it was our first real chance to make sure she was “okay.” Only to find out, that in the doctor’s opinion, she both was and wasn’t.
On the car ride home, I texted my mom and sister- in part to get their opinion and also to share/lessen my growing anxiety. They were supportive and after a few rounds of texting I realized that I should trust my instincts and not worry. Everything I had read online said she was too young for some of the developmental milestones they were looking for. So, as far as I knew she wasn’t behind. Yet, the doctor’s warning still had me worried because I didn’t want to ignore a professional opinion.
Throughout everything my worry was based on comparisons. According to the doctor my baby was not average. In comparison to other babies something was different from the norm, when all I wanted was for her to be “normal.”
My mom’s words settled me the most. She simply said “It’s been a long time since I was around a baby, but she seems fine to me. I think it’s too early to make a statement like that – everyone has their own type of personality…It’s not a race...all healthy babies do things in their own time and that’s fine too…”
Two months later, and I now know I was worried for absolutely no reason. I gave baby bean the time she needed, made reading more of a priority, and she’s been perfectly fine. Last week she started babbling mama and this week she’s moved onto nana and dada. She knows her name, reaches for the people she knows, has displayed the first signs of stranger/separation anxiety, and all in all has been steadily growing into a happy and healthy baby.
I share this story simply because it’s taught me a lesson that I hope I can remember both for myself and as a parent.
Everyone is different. People will be who they are in their own time, and that is okay.