I remember when I had my first child people soon began asking me, “is she holding her head up yet, sitting up, rolling over, walking, talking, doing back flips, or solving quadratic equations yet?” Now, the people asking the questions are all well intentioned, I’m sure, but there is this unstated belief that if our children walk, talk, read, etc early that we are good parents for having an accelerated child. It goes way deeper than developmental milestones too. We are constantly comparing our children and our parenting techniques to others trying to be the best parent out their with the best children. When we get caught up in this notion that parenting is a competition we miss the point of parenting in the first place. Parenting is NOT a competition, and when we try to make it one everyone suffers!
There was an article in Time magazine that came out in 2012 that had a picture of a mom breastfeeding what looked like a 4-year-old and was titled, “Are You Mom Enough?” I didn’t read the entire article, but I didn’t like the idea that it promoted. The article indicated if you don’t breastfeed your baby until they are four you aren’t mom enough, or even worse, that this whole “mom enough” title was a sarcastic comment about mothers who did choose extended breastfeeding as going to extremes. It could have been an article on the benefits of extended breastfeeding and how we should be more accepting of women wanting to breast feed in public, but no. They really know how to title an article to play into our fears, don’t they? So now, instead of making decisions for what is best for us and our babies and our families we now have to cater to what society thinks of us. As if parenting weren’t difficult enough, we have to pile on more by adding a competitive edge.
And let’s think about who really suffers when we get competitive. When we associate our success as parents with how soon our children walk(or whatever else we think they should be doing) we put unnecessary stress on our child to perform the way we think they should, and forget that each child is different, has different strengths, abilities, interests, and grows at their own individual level. My daughter didn’t walk until she was 14 months old. I was a little nervous about it
at the time because she wasn’t an early walker. Now I think about how ridiculous my fears were and I can see how her personality was shaped even at that young age. My daughter has this pattern of watching, waiting, and not doing something until she is absolutely sure she has the ability. So when she started walking she walked without stumbling. She looked like she had been doing it since she was 12 months anyway. She did the same thing with her bike. We wanted to teach her how to ride without training wheels when she turned 5, but she wasn’t having it. We backed off, and then one day when she was 6 she wanted to take her training wheels off. She stumbled maybe 4 or five times and then she just got it. She looked as if she had been riding without training wheels for a while. And all that had nothing to do with us! If we had pushed her to walk earlier so that we could feel like competent parents she would have resisted and the relationship could have suffered.
Lets liberate ourselves from the ideas that our children have to be or do any one thing and focus on encouraging them to do what they enjoy and at their own rate. Lets liberate ourselves from having to parent anyway that doesn’t fit us or our families. We are all on our own paths living our own lives, and we are all raising completely different children. There is a great article from Childhood 101 called Parenting Is Not A Test: Becoming the Parent I Am where the author states:
When you get down to it, you realise it is about your child, it is about your family, it is about you… and not anyone else. You realise it is about understanding and respecting children as humans. It is about striving to understand where our kids are coming from, remembering to respect their rights and most importantly to love them, always. ~Katie Fairlie
Lets embrace our differences rather than compare ourselves to one another. And if you find you really like the way one parent does something then try it with an open mind. Parenting is NOT a competition, it is not an ego trip, it is an opportunity to connect, love, encourage, and guide another human being on their journey, and lets offer support, rather than judgement to other parents out there. We are all trying to figure this parenting thing out together.
Do you feel confident in the way you raise your children? Do you have moments of doubt? We would love to hear your stories, so let us know in the comments below!