The Most Important Parenting Lesson I’ve Learned So Far
So many parenting tips are about how to modify your child’s behavior or teach him new skills, but I think there’s one parenting lesson that rules them all.
I was at the playground with my then-16-month-old, and we ran into another child who was about his same age. You guys, I think that this kid was a prodigy. My son had a few words at the time, but this child spoke in complete sentences! They played side-by-side for a while, and when we left the playground I was feeling kind of bummed. Why didn’t my kid have as many words as this guy? Do I not read enough books to him?
I beat myself up about this for the whole ride home.
I’ve only been a mom for a year and a half. In some ways I feel like I still have no idea what I’m doing, and I think that many other parents feel this way. No matter how many parenting books you read or moms and dads you talk to, there are moments when it feels like you’re winging this thing and probably scarring your child for life, aren’t there?
Later that week I hung out with a friend who’s child is also around my son’s age. Her son has an impressive vocabulary for his age too, and I confessed that I’d been feeling bad about my son’s language. She pointed out that my guy has lots of words. And you know what? He does! He’s fine, and he’s smart, and he’s a happy kid.
The most important thing I’ve learned so far as a mom is that comparing your child to other children doesn’t do anyone any good.
The thing is, it’s totally natural to compare your kid to the other kids in his preschool class or on the playground. Every time this comes up in conversation with other parents, they confess that they do it too. And you’re not going to stop doing it. What you can do is recognize that it’s happening and remember that all kids develop at different rates. When you catch yourself, it can be hard to find that perspective, but it’s so good for you and your child.
When I get caught up in this feeling now, it helps me to think of something my son has learned recently that’s blown me away. If you let yourself think back over the past week or month, I guarantee that you’ll come up with something. It doesn’t have to be a big something. Maybe your child put her blocks away for the first time. Or told you he loved you. Maybe she finally learned how to pet the cat in a way that’s more petting than hitting.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not constantly comparing my son to other kids and wondering where I failed as a mom. And I’m sure you’re not doing that, either. But when the urge does creep in, it can really make you question your parenting skills, can’t it? I think it’s important as parents that we remember that our kids are fine. We serve them better when we focus our energy on helping them learn, play, and grow than on wondering why they can’t do something that another kid can.
When my son is grown, I’m going to feel pretty silly about that 20 minutes I spent in the car sweating that he didn’t know what a cow says.