Pamela Chan, Contributor
One day, while you’re in the first year of new motherhood, someone comes along and drops the conversational bomb.
“Did you know that Susie’s little Johnny can already count to 10?”
Seriously? Because your child has hardly said a word and now you’re hearing about Same Age Johnny. At the same time your conversation partner is asking if your child can count to 10. What? You haven’t been working on counting with your toddler? Why does this person want to tell you this nugget of information?
How about the colours? And then there’s crawling, eating solids, walking, talking in general, reading, writing, singing, playing the piano, smiling like the other children, perception of manners, denial of tantrums in other children, enthusiasm to set the table and helping out at home…. Gosh this list is getting long.
You might be thinking that this is a whole bunch of hyper sensitive nonsense but let’s unpack this topic a bit further. If a statement about the progress of another person’s child is married with inquiries about the progress of your own child, what’s the end goal here? Or how about the side glance when your child didn’t say “thank you” at the right moment, coupled with a comment about how nephew or neighbour Joey has the best manners.
Some people do not excel at being subtle.
Why do people make these comparisons? Some are anxious that you should be keeping your child up-to-speed. They question your judgment and parenting skills. Some are talkative types who don’t know when they’re speaking out of turn. Some think their approach is always better and you – as a new parent – need to be informed about the better way. Cue the descriptions about health care and how to feed, care for and discipline your child.
No amount of careful conversations or carefully worded online comments are going to change their perspective. What can you do in the face of such insensitivity? Breathe. Keep your head down. Say “my child is doing fine”, with confidence. Because you are confident that no matter what happens with your child, you don’t need to be making comparisons with other children. Don’t let other people drop a wet blanket on you and your partner’s parenting efforts. Don’t let others distract you from your parenting priorities. In the natural run of things, there are ways for you to find out if you really should be concerned.
Once you start to show too much interest in these comparisons, you start to focus too much on what other people and their children are doing. This will lead to unnecessary anxiety and distractions that will pull your attention in directions where it need not be.
It might annoy those who think they are seeing a better way, but you have to stake your territory. You’re fine with your parenting choices. Your child is doing fine. That’s nice to hear about so and so’s child, but everything is fine at your home. You’ve figured out what you want to do with your child’s feeding routine. You’re abreast of the latest information and you’re good. Thanks but you’re OK.
Make these statements often enough and others will stop weighing in on your parenting choices.
No, you don’t want to put your child in that early learning programme. Yes, you’re happy with how prepared they are for Kindergarten.
Your child is good.
And good is good enough.