I have always been a very competitive person. It doesn’t really matter what it is – bridal shower games, another round of scrabble, or getting to the cash register first at Costco – I will strive to be first and best. However, this natural tendency to compete in everything has begun to rear its ugly head in the most surprising way throughout motherhood.
I suppose it all starts when we begin reading through pregnancy weekly updates. The question becomes what vegetable, fruit or other random item our unborn child is being compared too. Whether lemon or watermelon, we celebrate each week as if we, all on our own, have created toes and affixed fingernails.
And so documentation of where you should be, and your baby too – begins. It continues on until far beyond their teen years. From walking to entering Kindergarten to passing tests to first dates – we find ourselves attending every milestone as both spectator and often, and more precariously, as participant.
As a participant, the race to the milestone finish line becomes all about us. We scan in front of us and behind us, weighing in on who reached the milestone first, fastest, or most successfully. We compare our child’s race to another – and perhaps we become worried, or bitter, or just green with envy.
At least I have. It really hit me one day when another mother asked me if my son had started walking.
“Not yet.” I replied.
“Oh my! Well, my son began when he was but ten months old! He just one day up and walked. It was amazing!” she proudly exclaimed.
It was bitterness, envy, and worry that fueled the silence. Meanwhile, a whirlwind of thoughts had run amok. Was my son normal? Will he ever walk? Have I failed as a mother? How will this impact his future in athletics? In academics? Why is he taking so long?!
After coming down from the irrational, albeit normal, reaction of a mother, I came to a couple conclusions.
It Isn’t About Us
From the beginning, a mother plays an anticipated and meaningful part in a child’s growth – nurturing, nourishing, and teaching their child daily. But, children are their own person. Making their accomplishments and failures about us can rob our children of their identity, and unhealthily force us to question our own. When an inevitable mistake is made, shouldn’t we be an anchor in which our baby can rely, rather than a woman questioning her ability to mother? Moreover, in our children’s journey towards adulthood, they deserve someone who can walk alongside them, and not instead of them. I want to see my son celebrate his victories because he made them happen – not because I staked some sort of claim in getting him there. Thus, his starts and finishes- they get to be up to him.
Every Child is Different
We know this for fact; we are all different as adults. Yet, as our children grow, we tend to compare notes expecting the same answers, the same trajectories, and the same endings. It’s more comfortable that way, isn’t it? For me, knowing when a milestone is supposed to happen makes me feel as if I have some semblance of control or smidgen of know how. I’m learning that I don’t have control – despite what the websites predict. My son is his own person, just like you and me. He will grow at his own pace and on his own schedule. That’s what makes up who he is. That’s what makes up who your child is. Rather than feeling frustrated or envious of others, we can learn from our children and celebrate them for where they are at now, rather than focusing on where we think they should be.
Trust Your Mama Instincts
Naturally, there is a reason for this milestone identifying process. Doctors and Physicians, and other practitioners, use milestones as a way to gauge how your child is developing. There are times when our child isn’t at all on track – and that can be cause for true alarm. In those cases you should absolutely, as a mother; trust your instincts, advocate your concern, and seek out support. You know your child best. When it isn’t about envy or comparison, and doing what’s best for your baby – mama needs to be involved, plain and simple.
Have you ever struggled with milestone envy? Or had a time in which you needed to advocate for your child when something was clearly wrong? Share your story.
Michigan 106 Mile Marker by Alan Levine, Changes Made