Everyone wants their child to be impressive. Everyone wants to brag to their friends and family about how advanced their child is. As a first time mother, until recently, I wanted my child to be the first and best at everything. I was ecstatic when my son was able to hold his head up for long periods of time at 6 weeks old, I held my head high when all of his percentiles for weight, head circumference and length came in the 90th percentile and I posted every milestone on Facebook. I will still post them; however, now it will be more for updating friends and family on my son’s growth instead of it being more of a “nany nany boo boo” tone.
I have about ten friends that had babies within a 6 month span of when I had my child. Some were first time mothers and some I would consider “seasoned professionals.” I am lucky to have this many new mothers on my news feed. I have people to relate to and people to bounce ideas off of or ask questions to. This is also why I finally came to the realization of how LITTLE it matters how advanced my baby is versus others.
I want to take this moment to explain that I wasn’t hoping anyone’s child was slow or behind on the “expected” growth chart. I just felt like it was a race and I was training my child in order to keep him in the number one spot. I wouldn’t cheat by tripping the other runners or hindering them in any other way, I was focused on my son, and my son alone. I would also like to add that I was still ECSTATIC when my friend’s children started crawling or walking. I LOVE seeing all the updates, but in the back of my mind I thought, “my son did it first,” and that made me so proud.
Here is what I realized. Everyone learns to move. Whether it be walking, crawling or a child has an issue so they have to learn to move differently than everyone else. Everyone learns at different speeds. Everyone is different and that doesn’t make you better or worse.
I fell into that competitive trap. It was the main reason that adoption wasn’t an option for us when it was taking us a lot of time to conceive.
(6 months isn’t a long time in reality, but to us we were anxious and ready and it felt like forever. I had a mental image of an empty crib with a mobile of all of my bloody tampons because every period I got was an ugly reminder of a baby I might have never gotten to have.)
The idea of adoption is always tainted with people exclaiming, “what if you get an addicts baby?” As if they don’t deserve a loving home that allows them to flourish. “You just don’t want to go there, it would be hard and they might grow up to kill you in your sleep,” is something I felt like people were actually saying when they spoke of the concern of ending up with an addict’s baby.
People think this way because of the competitive nature of raising children. They don’t want to start the race five paces behind. They don’t want to invest their money, time and heart in a child that will come in last. How incredibly selfish and dissapointing.
Listening to one of the last chapter of Yes, Please by Amy Poehler in my car, she talks about her time in an orphanage. I cried. It was heartbreaking. As a new mother I couldn’t imagine holding a child and then realizing that there is no mother to hand the child off to. That the child clinging so desperately to you, a stranger, will cry in a corner to console themselves over the fact that everyone leaves and you, an infant, are alone. It was the first time I ever really thought about the fact that these children are seen as the last place kids. These kids aren’t trained and groomed to be in first place. They are in dead last and aren’t worth anyone’s time because it would be too much work.
Raising any child is hard. They all have their own setbacks and shortfalls. They are human. We fail as adults, but we hold our children to standards where failing isn’t an option. Instead of being viewed as a learning opportunity, failures are viewed as shameful. We don’t post our failures to Facebook. We keep those private so we aren’t looked down upon by others.
So along with the Anti-Mom Shaming movement, let’s add the idea that every child’s milestone is an amazing feat, no matter what age they do it at. Whether a child walks at 10 months or 14 months, they are walking! That is an amazing thing!
I’m going to take this time to talk a little about my brother. He is one of the sweetest people I know with a HUGE heart. I love my brother and I am so lucky to have him. I was always on the honor roll and just wasn’t. Our father tried very hard to motivate my brother but he gets discouraged easily, especially when it came to school. He ended up dropping out and getting his GED. I was still so proud of him. He did what was right for him at the time. He is now about to start college and is buying his first home with his fiancé. He is a success in my eyes because he works hard for what he wants.
Success is perspective. I hate when people claim they don’t hang out with successful people. Money and fame don’t make you successful. What makes you successful is based on your own personal goals, not anyone else’s.
So what I am trying to say is that if we stop making raising children a competitive sport, then all children will view themselves as successful. If we stop making raising children a competitive sport then all milestones will be equally celebrated as they should be.