You know how it is. The second you announce you’re going to be a parent, the advice starts rolling in. Most of it is trite. A little of it is actually helpful. But, let’s be honest … a whole lot of it is, well, bologna.
One of the silliest pieces of advice I received was this: don’t compare your child to others. I’m here to tell you—whether we are sharing laughs in baby music class, wrangling our kids together in the preschool hallway, or just standing in line at the grocery store, I am actively comparing my kid to yours. And that’s okay.
Don’t get me wrong. I know this “advice” comes from a beautiful place. It’s a dreamy thought, isn’t it? That all of our children are absolutely and empirically unique like little, amazing, awe-inspiring snowflakes? That’s sweet and all, but here’s the truth: we are all human, and we should be watching our children for certain milestones at certain times; we are probably addressing our children’s similar needs in somewhat similar ways; and we should be constantly setting (realistic) expectations for our children to help guide, mold, and shape them into thriving adults.
So, I admittedly compare my children to others. How else would I have known one of my children was a late talker? How else would I have known that a behavior I thought was completely normal actually wasn’t? How else would I have known that one of my children was an early walker? Or that he was eating way more or less “big boy” food than other toddlers his age?
If you want to live in a vacuum and consult Google for all these things, be my guest. But I prefer to consult my village. And that means that I respectfully ignore the advice about never comparing your child to others; and I compare, contrast, pro-con, and ask questions until I’m blue in the face. And this is actually where the good advice starts getting imparted. These are real moms sharing real experiences that could really help you in the trenches.
For example, when I compared my son’s communication skills to those of other children his age, I found he hadn’t mastered nearly as many words. After a few chats with other moms, I got him qualified for speech therapy, and his vocabulary has taken off. He’s gone from five words to five hundred words in about six months. I’m so glad I was comparing him to other children.
I compared my toddler to others when it came to discipline as well. I always felt like he was too young to understand any form of consequences; but when I saw another mom effectively using her version of time-out with her toddler, it inspired me to try the same. I’m happy to report that time-out works pretty well for us, at least for now. I’m so glad I was comparing him to other children.
And this even goes for moms themselves, too. After my second son was born, I was having a really hard time with anxiety and depression. This is something I normally might try to ignore and explain away, but comparing my experience to that of other moms really saved me. I discovered the difficulty I was having was not at all like the experiences my friends had. I talked to my doctor and got on an antidepressant that has changed my life. I’m so glad I compared myself to other moms.
So, go ahead. Compare your child to any other child you’d like. Compare him to mine. I don’t mind.
The key thing to remember—and what I actually think the original piece of advice was getting at—is that everyone is indeed different, and comparing one child to another does not necessitate labeling one as better or worse. The key is to use the comparison to learn something. Let it plant a seed for something you want to research later. Let it give you an idea for something you want to brainstorm about on Pinterest. Or even let it, admittedly, make your relationship with your child better. What’s the harm in that?
I would apologize in advance to all my friends and acquaintances who read this … but, I’m not sorry. I have learned too much from the conversations resulting from noticing your child does something differently than mine. It’s a tactic I intend to continue to utilize. At least now, when I’m sizing you up during preschool drop-off, you’ll know why.