Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Of Measure

Hi friends!
Thanks for your kind words about our photos! I don't know how we'll decide.
So, today I am thinking a lot about the topic of comparing my child to other children. I always figured I would NEVER be that person who worried that my child wasn't doing what all the others seemed to be doing. I always told myself that "children will do things in their own time so there is no sense worrying about it." That was BEFORE I had Paige. I still tell myself those things, of course, but now I can't help but see what other toddlers who are Paige's age are doing and wonder when she'll be able to do those same things and *gasp* is she behind? This is when my mantra of "she'll do it in her own time, don't worry" kicks in. But then I worry. A little. I guess this is normal, from what I'm hearing, but I still feel silly for comparing my child to what others are doing. It doesn't help that I am CONSTANTLY asked "oh! Hey! Is she walking? No? Ohhhhhhh." or "She must be saying a few words now, right? No? Ohhhhhh...I'm sure she will soon." I get some version of this almost every time we are out and about. I just got the words question yesterday at the library. The woman then went on to tell me how her 5 year old was "saying 3-word sentences at 6 months" and that her 2-year old son is "a lot slower than that so she worried he needed speech therapy." This while I'm listening to him chat up the room and delight us with his sweet personality. He seemed so much older than two and I thought he was so charming. And she's sitting there worried about him? I looked at Little P and she seemed dazzled by the boy and all the toys. She didn't seem to care that she couldn't say any words yet. Those darn questions. They serve to make me feel a little neurotic and a little defensive...like I'm not doing enough to help her along. But that's just it. You can't rush along basic life skills. The truth is she WILL talk at some point...her crazy babbling tells me so...and she WILL walk at one point...she's cruising tentatively around the living room but refuses to hold my hands to let me help her at all (she wants to do everything herself and makes sure we know it). Like pregnancy and many other things in life, it's largely out of my own personal control.
Here is what I have learned and have decided on:
1. When people ask about my child's life skills, they are really asking because they want to compare their OWN kid to mine and see where they are measuring up against their own peers. So, if their kid did something earlier than mine they can feel a little bit better about things. Or, alternately, if their child HASN'T done something mine does, they will go and fret and worry and wonder if they are behind. There's nothing like self torture. Usually, the questions aren't about my kid per se...but all about making sure we are all on basically the same playing field and that we aren't alone in our plight. That someone out there understands that we have NO control over this stuff.
2. I have decided to keep a list of "Butt-in-ski" questions that people will be asking until the end of time (the questions that someone somewhere deemed ok to ask):
When are you two getting married?
When are you two gonna have kids already?
Are you pregnant? (this question is so rude...please don't ever ask someone this. It's so intrusive)
When are you due? (this one isn't a bad one...just a very common one)
Are you breastfeeding?
Is he/she sleeping through the night? (only serves to piss off the tired parent if the kid doesn't sleep)
Is he/she eating solids yet? and "what does she/he eat?"
Is she crawling?
Is he/she drinking from a cup yet?
Is he/she saying words yet?
Is he/she walking yet?
Are you going to have another baby soon?

These are the questions I've experienced in plenty thus far and I'm already curious about the ones yet to come. I can only imagine.

3. My kid is perfect. In my eyes, of course, but that's all I really care about anyway. Nobody asks "Is her sense of humor sparkling and complex yet?" or "is her smile lighting up the room?" or "is her laughter the most beautiful sound in the world?" It's a shame, too, because she's talented in those areas. I know she will be able to do all kinds of cool things soon enough. And time goes by so quickly! So, in the meantime, I may just start wearing earplugs and perfect my own skills of smiling and nodding.

(update: I had to add after Jesse's wonderful comment reminded me...that some people's questions ARE of good intent without judgement of self or others. That there is genuine interest and those questions are out of curiosity of what is to come for their own kids or just in general interest. That it's nice to be able to share triumphs or questions. I meant to add that, but forgot. Thanks Jesse!)

9 comments :

Jesse said...

I'm sorry to hear you've had to deal with that kind of pressure/anxiety. No fun! I just want to put in a good word for the intentions of strangers...as a mom with my own baby, sometimes I ask those questions not because I want to compare and judge or compare and worry, but because I'm genuinely curious and excited to hear more about that milestone or behavior! I don't have a crawler yet, what is it like for families who do have a crawler? What is it like when they start using words or feeding themselves? I'm eager for those experiences. And also there's the whole element of "nothing else to say"...in small talk situations I know any parent (or anyone who knows a child) will have an anecdote to tell. (And three-word sentences at six months is so bizarre that I want to call b.s. on that lady! But who knows?)

Suzanne said...

To an extent I agree that kids do things in their own time. But nothing frustrates me more than when a parent brings in a 3-year old with no words and says "Well the doctor told us not to worry until he was 3" (or 2 or whatever it may be). Obviously Paige is young and still learning...but if you are ever really concerned or if she is not meeting her expected developmental milestones, you shouldn't hesitate to talk to your doctor and/or Early Intervention. This goes for all parents who might be reading! And you can always ask me anything, I have lots of resources. :-)

Sarah said...

I completely sympathize with you. My daughter is 3 months old and she's on the smaller side- 25th percentile in height and weight. She was 6.8 lbs birth, not like she was teeny tiny yet people still constantly comment on how small she is. They always ask "oh was she early?" or "was she 'little' when she was born?" It's always struck me as so rude. No, she wasn't a preemie but what if she had been and it was an awful experience- is that really a strangers business? I swear people lack filters these days. Keep your chin up! =)

Megan said...

Jesse: I meant to add those types of thoughts to my list and forgot! Thanks for the reminder and for your comment! It's true, not everyone is out to measure themselves or others.

Sue:Agreed. Of course, I know that expectations need to be WITHIN REASON and I would always encourage talking to a doctor if there was an actual worry I thought had merit. I just get nutty that as soon as one thing is achieved, the next thing is asked about in an instant. When she JUST started crawling it seemed like everyone wanted to see if she was walking the following week. :)

Sarah: See? It's already happening! These filterless questions seem universal and happen to EVERYONE. I've had to teach myself to take every comment or question as good intentions or out of genuine concern. That way, I feel good about it all rather than go nuts.

Valery said...

I feel like I am experiencing this on a DAILY basis and had to chime in... of course for a different reason though! :) I've learned that weddings (and babies) are something EVERYBODY has a story to share, an opinion to give, and (sometimes) judgmental questions to ask. "But bands are SO expensive!" "You're not doing a newspaper announcement? Ohh.." "How can you not want a bridal shower?" I know, not the same thing, but I felt compelled to comment!! :) Sigh. Hang in there!

Kristi said...

hey! you dont know me much but i just thought i would leave you with some encouraging words. my niece (now almost 3) that i live with was the same way. she didnt show any interest (at ALL!) in walking til she was 13 1/2 months, but when she did it, it was like she knew how to do it all along. as far as talking, she only said 1 or 2 words at a time until her second birthday, and that morning, she woke up jabbering up a storm (like she knew she was a year older that day). anyways, now we cant get her to sit still or be quiet at all, so enjoy the times that little paige is quiet and relatively immobile except for crawling. it wont last!!

and yes, we had the same people asking the same questions. but we had it one step worse. our pastor and his wife had a baby the day before my niece, so the entire church were constantly comparing the two girls! and of course, their daughter walked by 11 months... ha!

Tyggereye said...

I've struck up conversations with people about their kids. Sometimes its usually because people like to talk about themselves and our kids are the common "ground" that we both have to talk about. Weird but true. Some though do ask those questions to compare or to not fret as much.

MG said...

I love the title of this post. So perfect. I agree with everyone who has commented already. Sometimes milestone-talk is simply an easy conversation starter. Sometimes milestones are cause for concern. I have a smaller baby, and I have been shocked at how often people make comments about her - I find it much more frequent and upsetting than stranger comments when I was pregnant. What all the comments have revealed to me is how often and frequently we measure, appraise, and judge others, whether for good or for ill. I guess I'm also sensitive to having a little girl and realizing that size comments are already starting! In addition, I take it personally because feeding her has been so hard, difficult, and draining for me, and I bust my butt to do it! I try to remember that the lens through which I need to look at my baby is MY lens - I'm her mama. I know her best and have watched her grow and develop and I've got great partners (her dad and pediatrician) to help me care for her. I try hard to trust my gut and pose questions to the ped when I'm unsure. You're not alone in your mama-bear reaction!

Lor said...

Hey Megan, don't worry about these things! There are HUGE differences from one children to another before - say - 3 years old, but they all end up the same, don't they? My Violette walked just before she turned 13 months but our little neighbour did when she turned 10 months (just like I did, in my time :), my niece walked at 17 months and several of our friends babies at 18 months or more. And all of these babies are perfectly smart, happy and healthy. My Violette, on the other end, 22 months, CANNOT drink from a glass without spilling its entire content on herself!! I have worked on being really cool about what she does not do and other kids already do at her age (she has no interest in potty training, for example) and focus on what she does well (her speech is quite good actually) and be content with it, having seen so many parents around me stressed about these landmarks. I wish you will soon feel that way, too, it is so relaxing.
And you know, some children don't talk before they are perfectly confident with it (and speak very well sooner).

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