The Mommy Wars.
I’m sure many Moms have experienced the competitiveness that flares up from the minute you give birth (sometimes even from the moment you announce your pregnancy!).
With my firstborn, K, I had it pretty easy. Apart from the normal childhood illnesses, he was healthy, he reached all his milestones ahead of time and never gave me much to worry about. He sat, crawled, walked and talked right on cue. He was toilet trained at age three and never had one accident at night. He was always a healthy weight and “normal” (I hate that word – there is NO NORMAL!).
But the Competition Monster is always there, just around the corner, waiting to pounce. K slept in our bed until he was at least four or five. Even after we convinced him to move to his own bed in his own room, he still climbed in with us during the night, every night. We were happy with this arrangement – why weren’t others? What’s that you say? Your child has slept in his own room since birth? Wonderful! That’s fabulous! My child doesn’t.
It was during Grade R that the competition began to get serious. First it was the reading phase. If your child could read at four years old, that is truly lovely. I’m happy for you. K couldn’t. He wasn’t interested in sitting with a book. He wanted to make mud pies and dig for worms. He was discovering how deep his sand tunnel could be before it collapsed, figuring out how high he could stack stones, trying to see just how fast he could race his scooter down the passage.
My hubby A shared this little gem with me: Yes, he/she can read at four years old….guess what, K will be able to read in a few years…..then they will all be able to read – race over!
We developed a motto then – we’ll get there when we get there.
Once formal school started – oh the race had begun in earnest! Every term when report time came around, it was a flurry of messages “how did K do?”. Some Moms would want an exact rundown on percentages that K achieved for each subject….why? What does it matter how my child did in a formal exam? And so it has continued for seven years – each and every term! Early on, no matter if K did excellent or not that great, I would simply say this: he did fine and we are happy.
When R was born four years ago, the competition appeared to be in full swing very early on. R was not an easy baby. He was born with a tongue tie, which meant he couldn’t feed properly and was therefore underweight. He had surgery at five months old. He was also lactose intolerant and after many hospital stays and tests, was confirmed to have one Cystic Fibrosis gene and is a carrier of the disease. My gorgeous baby was also extremely sensitive to light, sound and touch. He cried a LOT and didn’t like to be held by anyone except Mom, Dad and brother K.
R was behind on almost all of his milestones. He crawled late and only walked at 18 months. He never spoke any legible words until he was three years old. Only those close to him could see the incredible intelligence he had, how he developed a sense of humour very early on and how he understood everything he saw or heard. He is thin and small for his age. Throughout the very difficult period, when we ourselves lived with a constant fear that there was something we were missing, we were constantly asked…. “isn’t he walking YET?”, “when is he going to talk?”, “why is he so small?”. We are judged constantly because once again, we chose to co-sleep.
R is still in nappies at age four. He simply refuses to use the potty or toilet. We continue to coax him, but we decided very early on with R, our attitude will be: he’ll get there when he gets there. Just to annoy people I often reply to their nosy questioning with a sarcastic retort: as long he is sleeping in his own bed/out of nappies by the time he starts high school, I’ll be ok with that!
I’ve often thought that this constant pushing of children to “perform” and be better than the rest is sometimes more for the parents than for any real benefit of the child. Obviously, you are thrilled when your child excels in something. It’s only natural to want to share your joy. I’m the first one to do so – any achievement from anyone should be shared and praised.
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not an expert in any form, I’m simply a mother.
A mother who believes that children should be children and allowed to develop at a rate that suits them. And any mother whose child is not reaching their milestones as determined by the “experts” is bound to be concerned. Don’t add to that concern by making her, or even that beautiful child, feel that they are lacking in some way and need to “be better”.
At the end of the day, each child is an individual. They have their own timeline.
They’ll get there when they get there.
As R continues to struggle with toilet training and as he learns to articulate himself better each day…..as K writes his final exams for his primary school career, when their reports are brought home, I will say exactly the same thing as I always do.
They are fine and we are happy.