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As parents, we know that comparing a child to another brings no good results. Yet, we persist with our quest for the perfect child.
In the first part of this piece, I explored the reasons why we compare our children to ourselves, and why we need to stop. Here, I look at another kind of comparison.
There are certain moments which stand out, as those which are as clear as an epiphany in terms of defining the rest of your life. For me, as a parent, the incident that I will relate later in this post, is one such.
Most parents tend to wish for a child who excels in everything that they attempt. Needless to say, there is a very rare child that manages to do that. But we have many examples around us to compare our child to.
Ram is good at Math, why aren’t you? Just hear Priti sing! Do you want to attend her music class as well?
Wow! That kid, Varun is good at badminton. How about joining his coaching class? Mina has just won a prize in a drawing competition. Maybe you should learn as well!
Nothing wrong per se`in hoping to have a multi-talented and accomplished child. But the problem starts if a parent says most of the above, aloud, to just one child. And, ends it by saying, “Why can’t you be that good?”
The pinnacle of modern parenthood is a parent, who has ‘created’ a child accomplished in several things. And is good at them or better than others.
I have a confession to make. As an inexperienced, but nevertheless hands-on first-time parent, I was a bungler. From an initial tentative ‘want-to-be-relaxed-parent’, I soon succumbed to keeping up with the Joneses. I emulated those around me and thought my kid should be the best… in most things. I hovered and stressed and complained and compared, to the eternal chagrin of my poor son.
Till he was about six years old.
As I was going over my litany of “Hey, R did better at Science and M did better at Art…”, he stopped me in my tracks, by simply saying, “Mom, how would you like it if I compared you to another mom?”
Mom, how would you like it if I compared you to another mom?
It was an enlightening moment for me. What was I doing? I wondered over the next few days, stunned at this simple logic!
Was I the best of mothers?
Some mother was surely a better cook, an enthusiastic story-teller, a patient listener, a kinder person or capable teacher than I was…. or perhaps would ever be!
I was the most ordinary of mothers, I realised. More importantly, I was, hopefully, becoming a better mother because I was also evolving with my child. Conversely, my child had certain unique qualities that made him a special person to me and perhaps, to others, someday.
And, it was up to me and time, to uncover these qualities in him and hone his talents (whatever they happened to be). But, he did not need a comparison to a peer or friend to do that.
Even if he did not have any talent whatsoever, he was himself, a person in his own right. And I loved him with every fibre of my being!
Did he not love me as well, this most ordinary of mothers? Did my love and concern for his welfare mean that I could then mangle his self-esteem by comparing him to others? Certainly not.
They say that no two fingerprints in the world are alike. Each of us will live and die with our own special fingerprints.
Perhaps we should realise that our children are also unique like the fingerprints they possess. We bestow our DNA, care, attention, time, resources and love on them, hoping that they will be something that we secretly wanted to be, but did not become in our own lifetimes.
Many parents subtly and not-so-subtly try to live their dreams through their children, (more on that in some other article); ending up creating a nightmare for their child.
If we can wrap our heads around the fact that we are ourselves not perfect parents, then we stop looking for perfection in our child.
I am still not the perfect mother. I am trying to be. My days of active mothering are long over. But, consciously and subconsciously, I never compare my kid to another.
There will always be some child who is better than our own at something; versatile, academically accomplished, better at some sport, talented in music, etc. Parenting means that you stop looking over other parents’ shoulders and look closely at your own child. Give her the freedom to choose her own space in the world, nurture his self-esteem and let them fly on the wings of their own talents.
By letting my child be his own person, I gave myself a great gift, too. That, of being at peace with my own imperfections and shortcomings, and of letting this special human being that I am mother to, know that I love him with all of his.
pic credit: oddmenout (Used under a CC license)
Hi. I am an anaesthetist by profession living and working in Mumbai.
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