When mums of babies and toddlers get together we start chit-chatting and end up asking how each other’s little ones are going. Are they sleeping through the night? Are they eating solids? Feeding themselves? Have they started to walk yet? We confess that our toddler has hit that terrible-two stage, is hitting or biting or has decided not to eat anything green. Or we boast toddler is toilet trained, feeds themselves with no mess, and is talking with great long sentences!
There are two sides to these conversations – one is simply catching up and showing an interest in the other persons little family, the second side though is that there is a slice of comparison going on. We leave these conversations feeling either thankful our toddler isn’t doing those things, or we leave feeling as if our toddler is never going to be a successful adult.
It is a trap we need to avoid.
I always say to my kids: you can’t have average without those who are not. Average (which tends to be what we aim for, the normal, the expected) only happens because some people are ahead and some people are behind.
Two things my mum said to me, when I was condemning myself (due to comparing my child with the average) have become standard thoughts for my parenting:
- You never see a 40 year old man wearing nappies! This comment was first made when I was stressing over Josh still in nappies. Her encouragement to me was that it will happen. And her image of a 40year old man in nappies gave me perspective and hope!
- You can only make decisions with what you have at the time. This snippet of wisdom, which we’ve applied to many situations since, came when I was stressing because Josh was still on the bottle. She encouraged me to remember the context of why that happened – there was a reason why that was the best decision at the time.
On the other hand looking at ‘average’ can be helpful. But only if we use it as a guide – something to keep in mind, something to work towards. When it becomes the ultimate goal though our parenting gets out of whack. We need to loving guide and help our little ones to develop in skills, thinking and heart responses but we need to relax in their individuality and not squash that, or be ashamed of it, simply because of average.
You can see the rest of my Living with a Toddler for 31 days series here.
Or find more 31 day series here.