I think we all know that we shouldn't compare ourselves to others. The longer we live, the more we learn that there will always be someone smarter, funnier, more creative, more patient, prettier, thinner, more successful-basically more everything- than we are. Making these comparisons will only make you unhappy and leave you unfulfilled.
You get to explore more avenues of the twisted comparison road when you become a parent. Moms and dads are always comparing their kids to others- to their friends' kids, to the other kids in the classroom, even one kid of their own against the other, pitting sister against brother.
I don't like it. But I do it, too.
Yesterday, Derek and I took the boys to their respective three- and one-year-old check-ups at the doctor's office. When the nurses were weighing each boy, while we were waiting for the doctor to make her entrance, and when she was poking and looking over each boy, my mind kept drifting to Adelaide's three-year-old doctor's visit. I was struck again and again by the differences.
I remember the nurse holding up the chart with different little pictures on it, testing Adelaide's vision, and wondering why they were using this chart, when she had known all her letters for almost a year now. Just use the regular chart, already! I remember going over the developmental milestones checklist, and marveling at the items I was checking off. Had they accidentally given me the form for two-year-olds? Of course she could draw stick figures and circles. What did they mean, "Is your child easy for most people to understand?" Don't most three-year-olds speak like really short adults (albeit adults that are obsessed with pink and shiny things)? What a joke!
Fast-forward two years, where I am yet again at a doctor's office, watching Atticus go through this same vision test. He's having trouble focusing, what with Daddy covering one of his eyes, and all the interesting and distractable new objects around him. He also can't seem to decide what some of the items are: "A house. No, a barn!" What Adelaide had flown through, Atticus has to be patiently coaxed, and all I can think is, "Thank goodness they have a different chart for kids." The only letters Atticus can identify with any regularity are O and X. If I ever had to confront my past self, I would want to punch her in her smug (if baffled) face.
Then, yesterday afternoon, I'm writing up a summary of the boys' height and weight stats to email to family members. Even here, I'm making comparisons. "Caedmon has gained two pounds in four months. He's one pound lighter than Atticus was at this age, and two pounds lighter than Adelaide was." Does it really matter that Caedmon is smaller than his siblings were? Because you know I've been worrying about this boy, our Spud, who is such a joy to our family. I get concerned that he's going to be the small one. Who cares?
Then we go out to play in the backyard. Adelaide wants to play frisbee, and I mentally groan, because I know one of us is going to get hurt. Sure enough, she performs some strange, spastic movement, the frisbee flies two feet straight into the air, and back down onto her head. She runs to me and cries into my shirt. Atticus picks up the abandoned frisbee, carefully winds up the way he's seen his Daddy do it, and lets it fly. Perfect form, and it travels several feet before coming to rest gently in the grass. It would be difficult not to compare these two physical performances, and it occurs to me that maybe the problem isn't in the comparison itself: It's in that second step. Comparing first, then finding one or the other lacking in some way.
So fine, maybe Adelaide doesn't have the natural physical abilities of her brother. Again: Who cares? Maybe watching her play sports is like watching a highlight reel of all those humiliating PE classes I was subjected to as a child and adolescent. So what? The girl was practically born reading, and I have more interesting conversations with her than I do with half the adults I know.
Maybe Atticus doesn't find flashcards and quiet, educational activities as interesting as Adelaide does. The boy is so much fun. He can hit a golf ball further than I can, and lives to play sports with Derek. Unlike me, who's fair share of hand-eye coordination seems to have been given to someone else (I suspect Derek, and God brought us together to help keep me humble), Atticus has a natural ability to play golf, soccer, football, frisbee. He's also very creative.
Perhaps Caedmon is smaller than his older brother and sister. He smiles and waves at everyone. The older kids at the bus stop crowd around him every morning, speaking in high, squeaky voices, making him laugh and clap. He often has the same effect on adults. They don't care if he's one-point-two-inches shorter than Adelaide was at twelve months. And neither should I.