“She is so tiny,” said the random woman holding a baby. Just seconds before she said that, I had said, “I already miss that stage even though I am excited for what comes next” referring to the baby in her arms. She was rocking the little one to sleep and had just told me, upon my asking, that the baby was three-months-old.
“Oh,” I said, unsure where she was going with her “tiny” comment.
“Oh…she is only five months,” I responded (implying that of course she is going to be tiny). “Yes, She is so tiny for 5 months,” she said, her words not betraying any emotion.
“Nope, she is perfect,” I said confidently, looking at my baby girl with love and pride, and tugging her just a little bit closer to my heart.
“You know when they compare…” she continued even though I had already stopped listening. First of all, who are they? Who’s comparing? And second of all, why are you still talking to me?
Then, to prove her point further, she pulled her phone from her purse, did a few swipes as I observed from the corner of my eye but not consciously, and shoved it in my face. The phone had an image of a smiling boy “My grandson is 7 months and here, here’s a picture of him,” she said proudly as I stared at a plump, full-faced boy.
“My daughter isn’t tiny, your grandson is fat!” I wanted to say but I held myself back because then this new wave of superiority that I was just feeling for having restrained myself would be of naught.
My 5-month-old daughter is perfect. She is perfect! Of course I may be biased but I can’t help it when she really is perfect I don’t shove her perfection in your face though because I am just not that kind of a person. We can have a long discussion about percentiles and what it means to be at or above a certain number but honestly, as long as my kids are happy and healthy, the numbers mean nothing to me – just confirmation that they are developing well.
As a new mom to TJ, however, I did have more insecurities. On his very first plane ride to Seattle when he was three days shy of three months, we had an old woman comment similarly about him too. This woman who was in the seat in front of us had stood up waiting her turn to exit the airplane upon landing in Seattle. We were still seated and in no rush to get out until there was more space in the aisles.
Glancing toward him, with all the kindness of a grandma, she complimented him on being an adorable baby and asked how old he was. “Almost three months!” I declared proudly. “Oh, he is such a tiny baby!,” she had said without pause. I am not quite sure how I responded to her then but I am sure she exacerbated any insecurities I might have had about his height and weight. I have previously discussed how Percentiles and Competitiveness is really a useless and diminishing thing to do to parents. Yet, we get bought into this comparison because our egos are tied to our kids’ well-being. We necessarily see ourselves reflected in how our kids get presented to the world.
Our parenting styles; the outcomes of these styles; what we choose to feed our kids and at what age; whether we read to our kids or not, how much, and at what age we start to do this; the content of what we read to our kids; if we allow them to play outside the home unsupervised or not, how much time we spend with them in creative activities, how often we take them to parks, and “educational” spaces like zoos and museums, if and when we introduce music in their lives, whether we make them take lessons to learn a musical instrument, or whether they play a sport or not…every single one of these choices and decisions get weighed in on by other people, mostly parents.
Perhaps these other parents are trying to find their own place in this arbitrary parenting hierarchy or perhaps they are playing their own version of an Olympics on raising kids, or maybe they are doing this to simply feel better about their own choices…no matter the reason, we are always comparing. Needless to say, comparisons become the bane of our existence and those of our children’s. The worst part is, even well-intentioned parents, including yours truly, may, unbeknownst to ourselves, engage in such behaviors.
Having grown up as a middle child, I have had my fair share of comparisons and was never a fan. I am definitely more conscious of comparisons -between my kids and others’ and even between my own kids. However, sometimes things are just uttered. They don’t mean much unless they hurt the other party or until they start eating me on the inside. Favorable or not, I end up admonishing myself for having made the comparison. Then, I forgive myself and life moves on. I really try though. Point is, I need to stop. We all need to stop. Now.
Why, oh, Why do we do this? To what end and to serve what purpose?!