I blame pediatricians. From the moment they start assigning your precious progeny Their Almighty Percentile for height and weight, they begin encouraging us to compare our children to others.
Comparing myself to others is second nature. “That mom looks better at carpool than I do on date night.” “That mom does CrossFit and cooks three organic meals a day.” “That mom is so laid-back that she’s not even envious of Moms 1 & 2.”
But when it comes to my kids, I see nothing but perfection. For a long time, I presumed they’d see themselves that way, too.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature. One day your daughter is going to come home and want to know why Emily has more friends, or your son will wonder why Caleb is better at sports. Comparisons like that have come up with my two children, and they don’t stop as they grow older. In fact, the questions become more complex, a little bit deeper, and harder to pin.
These questions worry me, and most parents, because how do we respond? How do we acknowledge the fact that every child will compare himself to another, and in some ways this comparison is a way to gauge maturity, growth, and even excellence?
Wait, sorry, I don’t actually have the answer. I was asking you.
If you ask me, my son and daughter hung the moon. They are the smartest, brightest, most talented, wittiest, least annoying kids you will ever meet. (And that’s saying a lot, since I’ve actually hidden in the pantry from them once or twice.)
It’s not that I’m blind to the truth. I know my son isn’t the fastest kid on the soccer field, and there are kids my daughter’s age who can play Rocky Top in its entirety on the violin/piano/harmonica/spoons (come on, I live in Tennessee). But to me—their smitten mama—they are the bees’ knees, and even if I come across other kids who might be MORE (fill in the blank), I wouldn’t trade them in a million years.
But I’m afraid being My Very Favorites isn’t enough to quell those earnest, heart-heavy questions. And maybe that’s okay. Because in reality, there’s a tiny handful of people who consider my children their Very Favorites. And I think it’s important for our children to know that: It’s a wide, wild world out there, and they make up a really small part of it.
I think it’s probably okay for our kids to look to their peers and see characteristics they wish they had; I think comparison, to a degree, is healthy. It’s how they find out who they are, and what they love, and who they want to be as people.
I think it’s our job as their parents to celebrate what makes them Our Very Favorites, to give them the tools they need to become the best they can at the things they care about most, and to remind them how special they are in their own unique ways.
And to set a good example, I’m starting with myself. I may not do CrossFit or accessorize before carpool, but I’m definitely the funniest mom in the school. So there.
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Jessica Buttram parents, writes, laughs, and eats too much chocolate. She has no practical advice and zero life hacks to offer for this whole parenting gig, but she makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich, and that’s something, right? When she’s not bribing her kids with Doritos to make them sit still and snuggle for just a few minutes longer, she can probably be found vacuuming Dorito crumbs out of the couch. Her family is her whole world, except for the part that belongs to coffee. You can find her @jbuttwhatwhat and meetthebuttrams.com.