One of my all-time biggest pet peeves is when my husband pulls the comparison card on me, especially when it comes to parenting. I love him with everything that I am, but in the moment that he starts in on “so and so does it this way, and said that we’re doing this wrong”, I think my brain just explodes, all reason leaves the room and I turn into a shrieking deranged harpy. I’m actually legitimately scared he’ll video tape my reaction one day, for posterity’s sake, and force me to watch it before he tucks it away for future generations of husbands as a cautionary tale on what marriage is truly like. See honey, I know I’m crazy!
But what I’ve come to realize very recently, you know in my moments of deep self-reflection (usually when I have three seconds to pee by myself before my toddler bursts into the bathroom), is that I think I react this way because I’ve seriously self-traumatized. I’ve spent a good deal of my time comparing the way that I do things to the way other people do them. It was a big part of my mentality growing up, when all my friends were going out and having fun and I was a shut in due to my anxiety. I did a lot of comparing, self-pitying, and questioning why I was wired the way I was. Why couldn’t I just be normal like everyone else?
Normal doesn’t exist
It took growing up, and really learning and reflecting to realize that normal doesn’t exist – NO ONE is “normal” or “perfect”, those aren’t realistic or even real standards to live by. Hell, I’ve even come to love the fact that I’m a little awkward, mostly loud, a complete and utterly helpless nerd, and overtly friendly. But damn, did it take a long time to get here; and even though I’m better at coping with all that self-comparison now – that way of thinking hadn’t completely left me by the time I became a mom, it had just changed to apply to other aspects of my life… like my kid.
Now I’ve NEVER EVER put pressure on my child to be like anyone else, to look, act, or feel like anything he does not want to, because I know better. I know that he is and will be amazing in every single way, just the way he is, but where I did start to compare and worry was in his developmental stages.
The worst 5 days…
My son was born with low muscle tone, or at least what all the tests they did at birth showed as low muscle tone. This meant he spent 5 days in the NICU. These were the worst five days of my life. I couldn’t help but notice the fact that most of the other moms on the floor were able to have their babies in their rooms with them… and here I was, finally a mom, and my baby was all the way down the freaking hall in a completely separate room, attached to a bunch of monitors. So, an hour post c-section, I was up and running. I spent most of my time in a chair in the NICU, sitting beside my baby, crying my overly hormonal tears, wondering what the hell I did wrong and why I was being told that my bundle who looked so damn perfect, wasn’t.
He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and I couldn’t do a single goddamn thing to help him. For five days I refused to leave the hospital without my baby. For five days they monitored him. On the sixth day they sent us home, with no answers, and told us to take him to Sick Kids for a planned appointment with the neurology department (which wouldn’t be for MONTHS) where they would run further tests.
We went home, and I watched him like a hawk.
Now the appointment rolled around, the tests were done, everything came back all hunky-dory. Turns out our kid was fine, there was no reason for concern – no further signs of low muscle tone, and we were told to just keep an eye out for certain symptoms “just to be on the safe side” (cause that’s super reassuring…). Now, I’m an anxious person to begin with… tell me my kid might have some kind of health problem, and I’m all calm and collected, right? HAHAHAHA – no.
I have no idea if this had anything at all to do with that original diagnosis at birth, but our son didn’t even start sitting up until after 6 months, and was nowhere near confidently sitting by 8 months. He didn’t crawl until after he started daycare at a year, he didn’t walk until after 18 months. In all this time, I watched, I waited, and I compared, compared, compared. I stressed so much over the fact that all the other kids his age were reaching these physical milestones, and he was not. He was so perfect…why wasn’t he able to check that task off the list like everyone else? Maybe that original diagnosis was right? Maybe I should be worried?
That’s when his pediatrician said the words that calmed me down, the words that I repeat to mom’s who are experiencing the same concerns that I was. “Calm the f*ck down, your kid will get there” (okay, she didn’t use the F word… but that’s totally how I repeat it). She told me that children focus on one of two areas developmentally – physical or verbal development, and you know what? By age 1 my son was blabbing away, already learning the alphabet, and was mentally advancing faster than most of his peers. Did I notice that he was way beyond the verbal milestones for his age? No, because I’m stupid and was too busy worrying about the fact that he wasn’t moving those delicious chubby thighs, crawling across the freaking floor!
I spent so much time comparing his physical milestones to those of others that I was missing out on this amazing life journey he was on. He was learning to communicate with me and the world around him, and I was worried? Silly Mama, your kid is a genius! (They all are, I’m just overly boastful because I’m super biased.)
What happened next?
Today I’ve MAJORLY self-corrected. Every time I notice myself starting to compare, I check myself before I wreck myself. I think maybe this is why I go full blown harpy when the comparisons start – I’m so set on not falling back into that pattern that it makes my blood boil when someone else does it for me. That’s not to say that I’m always successful – I’m only human, sometimes I can’t help but compare, but the important part is that I remember to come back down to earth, down to me. I love the life I have, the one I’m living right now. I don’t want to live my life like someone else – I want to live it like me, and most importantly I want my son to grow up knowing that he can make his own definition of perfect, that he can be happy with what he has and strive for more because he WANTS it, not because someone else has it.
Oh, and my husband? He doesn’t call the harpy out to play anymore – she’s taken the calm approach and explained all this rationally, you know… not on an empty stomach. He gets it now.