I get worried sometimes that my son isn’t “smart enough”.
I don’t worry that he’s not smart enough to become President, or go to the moon one day. I don’t worry that he’s not smart enough to find a job and support himself one day.
I just worry right now that he’s not as smart as his peers.
And I know there are other moms who might feel the same way I do, that’s why I’m writing this piece.
I see it everyday on my newsfeed even if I don’t want to –
My friends’ kids that are around the same age as my son –
They’re all reading books on their own, writing, spelling, recognising words, speaking in full sentences…
My son is five and he doesn’t know his ABCs.
So yeah, naturally I worry.
And then I have to quickly realise that I’m simply having a case of ‘Comparisonitis’ and I just have to get over myself!
What the heck is Comparisonitis
You know, when we can’t help but compare our kids to other kids, no matter what age they are?
Somehow “ooh ooh” some other kid has done something way cooler, faster, and now my kid is left behind because he’s still clueless as a cucumber about that said thing.
It’s a natural reaction. So don’t beat yourself up if you might have such thoughts every now and then. It’s NORMAL, mama.
I mean, it’s ingrained into us from the moment our kids were born. In the first month of birth, they should be having 6 to 10 soiled diapers a day. At two months, they should be turning their head to follow sounds. At six months, they should be able to sit without support. At one year, they should be able to stand up, even beginning to take their first steps.
And if those milestones weren’t scary enough to have to stick to, there’s always that one parent friend or that parenting article online that says,
“Is your child already one and not able to stand??? God forbid, something might be wrong with them! Worried about your child’s developmental progress? Act early! Go talk to a pediatrician now!”
So we’re always going to worry if they’re developing “right”, if they’re hitting the milestones as they “should be”, if they’re doing things the way they’re “supposed to”.
But those words right there, they’re a huge issue.
Kids develop totally differently
It’s a huge issue because there is no such thing as “supposed to”. Kids all develop at different rates, at different times, in different ways.
You can say they should be crawling at 9 months and taking first steps at a year old. In reality, some kids completely skip crawling and just go straight to walking! I know it well, because my son was like that! One day he was a baby and the next day he was pushing a cart in my direction, no kidding!
I’ll admit, though, I got caught up in the whole “supposed to” symptom of Comparisonitis. At one point, I was seriously stressing myself over trying to get my son to sleep the entire night in his bed, in his room, without waking us up. I mean, yes, I valued my sleep, so that’s probably one of the reasons why this particular milestone was so important.
But somebody asked me, “Why is it so important that your son sleep through the night in his own bed right now?” And my answer was, “Because he’s supposed to, by this age!” Oops. I caught myself right there and then. But she looked at me with that all-knowing look, a very uncomfortable silence that said, “Uh huh.”
Why IS it important, anyways?
That was a gamechanger, though.
Now whenever I catch myself having a case of Comparisonitis, I just ask myself this one question.
“Why is it so important that he (do this) at this age?”
If I can come up with a logical and reasonable explanation, good job.
Such as – Why is it so important that he know how to look out for cars before crossing the road at this age? Because he goes to school and they sometimes go out on walking excursions and while there is a teacher looking after them, they are in a group of 15 and I rather he know this just as a safety precaution. Great.
Now, why is it so important that he can read his own books and not need you to read with him at this age? Because he’s “supposed to” be able to by now. Oops.
We get to decide what’s more important
This is when I remind myself that there is no “instruction manual” that comes with kids when we are blessed with them.
We get to decide what’s more important throughout their childhood, sometimes even despite what other people might think.
I’ve been told my child should sleep in his own bed, in his own room, and not let him sleep with me anymore. This can cause “sleep crutch”, where a kid becomes anxious if there’s nobody sleeping with them, and they’ll always need someone there with them in order to fall asleep – perhaps even for the rest of their lives!
I could worry about that. But I’m pretty sure my son at 16 would have long sorted this issue out if it meant he still had to have his mom with him in bed before he could fall asleep!
I’ve decided long ago that it’s more important that my son knows that we are there for him whenever he needs us, and if he’s feeling pain or he’s unable to sleep well, or for whatever reason at all, he needs us, he can always climb into bed with me, sleep on my pillow and under my blanket.
And for as long as he wants to, and it’s not yet weird, he may.
Looking at what’s important from a new perspective
I’ve also decided that sometimes there might be other important achievements I’m not seeing, because they’re not the obvious ones.
For example, is it more important that he is able to read a book solely by himself? Or is it also important that when I read a story to him, that he can understand the feelings the characters feel, can relate to them, and understands the moral of the story?
It’s the exact same “milestone”, reading books. But what I choose to focus on when it comes to that one same act, can make a world of difference.
Sometimes I ask him to tell me a story instead, and he might start with a story I’ve read to him before, but he usually goes off tangent and his imagination starts taking over.
Once upon a time, Megatron broke into our house and stole our special TV, the one that lights up in the night, and our dog Canoe sprung on him, but Megatron jetted into the skies and down the road. That’s why we no longer have that special TV, the one that lights up in the night.
Now tell me, how can I face something like this and not simply be in awe of his imagination and storytelling skills? Can I really say to him, “Yes you have a great propensity for fantastical retelling but I rather you be able to read a book by yourself.”??
Celebrate what’s amazing about our children
No, my son is a wonderful storyteller and I will celebrate that about him.
He is a wonderfully kind soul who will give you a hug and a kiss, and put a plaster on your wound if you are hurt. And I will celebrate that about him.
I’m pretty sure author of “When Kids Call the Shots”, Sean Grover, agrees with me on this.
“Rather than compare your child, celebrate their strengths,” he says. “Help them develop their unique talents. Give them a sense of pride in their identity. Positive reinforcement is always better than negative comparisons. Celebrating your child awakens a natural drive to achieve more. They are more ambitious, more connected and more empathic.”
More connected and more empathic? Heck yeah. I definitely want that for my son.
So yes, my son is five and he doesn’t know all the letters in the alphabet.
But he can write ‘MAMA’ and he writes it on his homework file because he’s proud of what he accomplishes and he always wants to show his Mama what he’s done.
And I will celebrate that about him.
xoxo Michelle / The Uninspired Mom