• Comparatively Speaking

    Date: 2011.01.15 | Category: parenting | Tags: ,,,

    I’m one of those people who will read a topic as thoroughly as possible when it applies to me.  Getting married?  I read all the books on planning a wedding, premarital counseling, budgeting, etc.  Pregnant?  I read everything from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to “Belly Laughs” by Jenny McCarthy.  Raising kids?  I’m reading all of those too- do you have any recommendations?

    I tend to pick and choose which advice I take to heart.  I don’t have any problem pulling bits and pieces from various sources and combining them all into my own unique style.  I apply a little “Love and Logic” here and a little “Happiest Baby on the Block” there.  I’m firm on an early bedtime a la “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”, but totally relaxed about potty training a la “Baby 411”.

    I don’t compare myself too often to other parents either, other than occasionally thinking “Man, I am NEVER going to do THAT!”  or it’s sister “Ooooh, I can’t wait to try that with my kids.”

    We had the pleasure of hosting my husband’s cousin and his family for a week this month.  They are moving here from Portland with their 3 year old and 8 month old twins, and we offered them a place to stay while their household was being shipped across the country.  While the dad went back to Portland to get the dog and the car, his sister came out to help with all the kids.  Both Stacy and Michelle made several comments during their stay about how calm I am as a parent.  Or how good I am with the kids.  Or that they want to try what I do with their own kids.  (Please note- on Monday and Thursday we had 7 kids age 3 and under in the house.  Yes, you read that right, 7 kids under 3!  The rest of the time was relatively peaceful with only 5 kids!)

    At first I was a little prideful, thinking “I AM a great mom!  My kids ARE well behaved!”  Then I had to laugh.  I mean really laugh.  And not at them, but at myself.  I have a two and a half year old and an 11 month old.  Oh, of course there are difficult moments, but Michelle’s kids are several years older- she has a whole host of behavior issues my two year old hasn’t even thought up yet!  Stacy has two babies to deal with- in addition to her toddler.  Of course I seem calm to them- I don’t have the challenges that they have.  I don’t have to work full time and deal with the ramifications of the bad habits they pick up in child care.  Or coming home exhausted from work just in time to deal with dinner and bedtime 5 nights a week.  I don’t have to weigh the needs of my toddler with the screams of my twin babies.  I’m not moving across the country with my 3 small children!

    It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other moms.  To think that this mom has it all together or that one isn’t doing a very good job.  But what do we know about her challenges?  About the help that she gets?  About the unique personalities and needs of everyone in her family?  What does she know about how easy or difficult my kids are?  About how much sleep we got last night or how sick we’ve all been for the past month?

    I think it’s a great idea to watch other parents and get ideas of things we can apply to our own parenting.  I do it all the time.

    I think it’s a terrible idea to watch other parents and judge the success of our own family by what we think we see.

    I do think I’m doing a good job raising my kids.  I try to remain calm, to discipline consistently and with humor, to get down on the floor and play with my kids, to share with them God’s love.  Some days I do better than others.

    As do you.

    Let’s try to be gracious to each other.  Let’s encourage and lend a hand.  Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Does anybody benefit when we roll our eyes or make a snide comment?  Is anyone better off when we ignore someone’s struggle rather than offering to help?

    I think it really does take a village to raise a child.