Anything yours can do...
"Anything yours can do, mine can do like ten thousand times better (and faster)"
The comparison game is something parents do not take lightly.
You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes its a few casual words from a mummy friend that highlight how different two parenting journeys can be. Sometimes it’s the unintentional “my baby isn’t like that at all” comment, sometimes it’s a bit of harmless advice from a great place of experience and knowledge, but sometimes it’s just uncalled for and very frustrating.
I think it’s something all parents do, whether we’re aware of it or not. We share. But we also compare. And comparing your child to someone else’s can often leave you feeling not so flash.
These days you don’t even need to have an actual conversation with someone in order to feel inadequate - we can see it all right there in our social feeds. We can compare from the comfort of the couch, even though we don’t ever get the full story.
For example, if you didn’t know already, Ashton came right on time.
Yep, right on time.
He was born on his due date, entering the world at a respectable 6:50am, just as the day was beginning. My instagram post says so.
You don’t need to know that I laboured for three days straight, oh no. My baby was timely. He was polite. He had that the whole thing planned out.
It’s just it never ceases to amaze me how quick we are to applaud these little buttons for everything little thing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty incredible to watch them grow and develop, but do we actually have a say in when our babies “decide” to do anything?
My sister’s favourite thing to say about Ashton is “He’s so advanced!”. She’s right, he bloody well is. He’s so advanced that most of the time I can’t even leave the room to take a wee. The second he hears my feet shuffle he’s advancing on me like an emotional Belieber chasing free tickets to a Justin concert.
And speaking of thirteen-year-old girl dreamboats, Ashton loves music. “Flying without wings” by boy band Westlife is a particular favorite of his (just when I thought I’d left the 90’s behind).
I kid you not, he will go from full tantrum to silence in a matter of seconds, as soon as you start singing the first verse.
My husband and I have sung it over a thousand times. At least.
I hear it in my sleep. It’s my least favourite song in the entire universe.
For some reason, you’ll never see a “Can’t leave mum alone for a piss” on the milestone social media post. You don't hear my unenthusiastic voice as I sing "Everybody's looking for that something..." for the eighth time in a row while I try to scroll the gram.
Too often, we pick out the best aspects to share with others and in the process, miss out on sharing our own authentic version of parenthood. I say “authentic” because truly, every journey is different. Every experience is different. Every child - yep - different.
Yet we still compare our experiences with other's. Why is that? Aren’t the kids are alright, just as they are?
It turns out comparing things is just part of how we function as a society. We’re in the age of analytics and information and as a result, we’re bombarded with endless knowledge about our children’s development. Even Plunket uses this information to make sure a child is on track from day one.
How crazy is it that your child’s weight percentile doesn’t factor his or her ethnicity, nor does it take in to account genetic make up?
As a result I’ve had friends whose babies have been considered obese or underweight simply because they don’t measure up to the growth charts. These babies aren’t newborns and they’re happy and healthy, they just simply don’t fit the box they are trying to be pushed into.
I’m all for information and knowledge, but sometimes being handed a growth chart or a list of skills just tells us that if our babies aren’t ticking all the boxes, something’s wrong.
Parenthood needs to be more than just a series of can and cannots. It needs to be more than ticking off the weight milestones, or simply taking note of that first tummy role, that first step, or that first word.
That’s not all I want to remember from my first year as a mum.
As weird as it sounds, I want to remember peeing with the door open with a distressed child at my ankles. I want to remember every car trip and every late night singing “Flying without Wings” for the eighth time in a row.
I want to remember the time Ashton’s poop flew off his nappy as I pulled it out from underneath him, splattering it all over the wall and floor.
Yes. That actually happened.
These moments speak of survival. They speak of strength. And dry-retching in some instances.
Part of the reason I chose to start documenting my parenthood journey was so that I could have a chance to capture the nitty-gritty, not just the grammable moments.
These weird and gross moments ARE motherhood to me, along with the good ones.
I’ll always remember being sleepless at 2am and watching my son finally give in to sleep. On these nights my vision blurred and my head hurt; I had such little sleep. But in the silence my heart swelled and I was caught between feelings of loathing and loving. I loath the sleep deprivation, sure, but I couldn't help loving my little silent angel.
For every “milestone” you see or hear (from me or someone else), remember there is a whole lot of nitty-gritty that comes along with it. The child in that post is by no means perfect and neither is their parent.
For example, my child is advanced, but he has no idea how to sleep. It took him about three times longer to learn how to wave than his female friends, he hates pumpkin and I don’t think he’ll be walking anytime soon (and I’m totally okay with that!).
Me on the other hand well, I’m a mother trying to do it all. I don’t pay enough attention to my child’s development or his nap times (which might explain the sleep problems) and I get frustrated at his neediness. I want motherhood to be all about good times and coffee with friends, and I get lazy when it comes to his food.
Oh, I also pee with the door open now.
Look humor aside, I just feel that somewhere along the way - with all our baby knowledge - we got the wrong idea about “measuring up”. Somewhere along the way we made the association that a quick developer equates to a quick learner and perhaps a “good” parent.
These are very big and wrong assumptions.
Our children have their entire lives ahead of them to learn. Some will be fast, others will take time to mull things over. Some will struggle. That is life, and it’s coming for our children whether we take a ba-jillion instagram posts or go to a thousand baby-sensory classes. Why put the measuring stick up against our babies earlier than we need to?
In case you haven’t heard it today, your baby is doing GREAT. Your baby is a gift to this earth. YOU are a fantastic parent. You’re making it work, be proud of that.
The only measurement that really matters is the happiness and healthiness of your little angel - and no one is better at figuring that out than you.
Let’s not have babies who can walk, talk, count, read or do quantum physics earlier than they should. Let’s have babies who are curious and fascinated. Let’s create kids that are filled with wonder and excitement.
Let’s not be afraid to enjoy our children as they are and where they’re at. Right. Now.