Monday, 24 June 2013


So the other day, a friend was visiting and we were talking about our kids, of course, because we had already talked about television and we are too washed up and tired to talk about anything else. Our children are the same age and after we'd discussed all the boring stuff that people do in these situations, she said conversationally, "Do you know what, Claudia? I know they are the same age, but I really think my girl seems like she is a whole year older than your two." Then, on seeing my face, she added "I just mean developmentally."
my genius children
I was shocked into silence. My mouth was saying nothing, but my mind was working at warp speed.

What a ridiculous thing to say, I thought first. My kids are fine. FINE I TELL YOU! 

And then - How dare you, anyway! How dare you say that about my children! How could you be so ill-mannered? I have a good mind to pour my coffee all over you. 

Then I thought about all the stuff my children can do, and my mind continued with anyway, my children are doing all kinds of hard emotional work that your precious princess will never have to do. They are learning about families and complications and dealing with talking about how many parents they have, and why they never see two of them. They are facing the fallout of huge, grown-up decisions they had no hand in making, and they are doing it with such grace and good humour for such tiny people - I am so proud of them, every day. They are doing amazing things. EXCUSE ME if we haven't got around to spelling yet. 

But this was quickly followed by Oh no, when ARE we going to get around to spelling? Sometimes I don't think they'll ever be ready. They'll be behind before they go to school, and then they'll never catch up and they'll never be able to get a job and I'll have to keep working forever to support their cheerios habit and oh no, she's right, they are a year behind, she's right.... 

In other words, I cycled through the first four stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression - in under thirty seconds.

I quickly changed the subject, but I've continued to think about it, obviously. I  have been thinking how this conversation was actually pretty different from the ones that people normally have about kids' development. Those usually go Oh, your child isn't SPELLING yet? Really? Oh. Okay. Oh well, I'm sure they'll catch up. 

I know this stuff is well meant, but it always makes me think Oh yeah? And if not, then what? 

Because this is a weird thing about having three-year-olds. People are still talking as if they are all going to achieve equally. Uh, yeah, not so much, I don't think. We don't really know who will do what at this point but I do know some children will be capable of more than others. And if my child is at the bottom of the bell curve, if my child doesn't 'catch up', what happens then? There must come a point where people stop telling mothers that their child is going to catch up, a point where everyone realises yeah, that kid is really not ever going to be like the other kids. Or even if the child doesn't have obvious problems, there must come a point where the teacher realises that this child isn't going to set the world on fire, academically. This child is never going to catch up to Princess Perfect and her gang.

Maybe I should thank Princess Perfect's mother for her refreshing honesty. Or maybe I should just start criticising her kid's development, and see how she likes that. "Oh, Princess Perfect can't sing arpeggios yet? I guess it's like my children are a whole year older. I just mean musically." 

But what would be the point of that? Because a) it's rude, b) who cares what her child is doing, c) no, really, who cares, d) honestly? Who cares and also e) it's still as rude as it was at a).

But people talk as if this stuff matters. People tend to say that each child will 'catch up' with whatever imaginary milestone is being discussed, apparently, but if not then what? All this oh, they'll catch up makes me think the speaker feels like the alternative is too awful to even contemplate. If they don't catch up, does that render them unloveable?

Colour me obvious, but achievements and milestones are not what makes kids - mine or anyone else's - precious. I know we don't really think this is true, but if that's the case why do we talk like we do, about catching up, with all this boring competitiveness? Why did Princess Perfect's mother feel like she could be somehow proud of her child's superior development (whether imaginary or not)? I don't want my kids thinking that way about themselves, as if this is what makes them worthwhile. I don't want my kids thinking that way about other people, either. And by the way, I think this goes for the Oh, she may not be very clever but she's very kind stuff too. What happens when our children also have below average kindness? Because even that stuff isn't dished out evenly, is it? Not in my house, anyway.

My point is this - it's not a game. It's not a race. It's not a competition.

My children are unutterably precious to me for one reason, and only one - they are my children. They do not have to be better or faster or stronger or cleverer or taller than anybody else's to earn their place in my heart.

After all, isn't this why kids need families? The strongest, the fastest, the cleverest, the prettiest - they are the kids who would probably survive wherever and however they grow up. Families are what the rest of us need. Families are the places where we clutch our average children close to our average chests and run our fingers through their average hair and whisper in their average ears that nobody, nobody is more precious to us than them, and we say this because it's absolutely, totally true.

You know what? Maybe my children really are developmentally behind Princess Perfect. Maybe they always will be. And I would spare them hardship, if I could. I would like them to be clever and tall and beautiful and a dozen other things that would grease life's wheels for them. But I can't, and I wouldn't love them any more if I could.

I do think that my two are largely fine, developmentally, but that's not the point. And Princess Perfect's mother really was rude, but that's not the point either. And it's also not the point that my two are scaling emotional mountains no three year old should have to climb, or that actually, they may never 'catch up' academically, or that I may need to pay for their breakfast cereal until they leave home at forty-five.

The point is that we're a family, and I love them, and they're precious, and they're mine. And really, that makes the rest of it seem kind of irrelevant.


  1. AMEN!!!! Have you heard JJ Heller's song "Who will love me for me?" Such a good message. Your two look absolutely precious and adorable and perfect just the way they are for Who they are! AMEN again :-) Allison

  2. Yes, yes. We are teaching them to be people and how to make their way. The ABC's and all that fluff comes along anyway, but who wants a kid to suffer through not understanding themselves or other people? That is a miserable life. We see it all the time in this world, right? Learning how to be a person, that's the key.

  3. I know it's not the point, but many gifted children are late bloomers, and many children identified as gifted early on turn out to be average. Feel free to throw that out there when you need to. It's documented, by real researchers. I heard it on public radio, so it must be true.

    I am firmly in the camp that what makes my children special is that they are my children. I will always see the best in them. Even if they are still sharing a room in my house and playing with Calico Critters when they're 38. I love Calico Critters! Let's just prolong this phase!

  4. What a timely post. I stopped frequenting mom's groups for this very reason--because, at some point, there was always some woman who turned their child into some weird competition and I found it so vile that it drove me away from the entire group for good (yes, one bad seed totally poisoned the well for me). So, this is timely for me because it being summer, I found my way back into a group of moms (hoping it would better roll off my back this time) and lo and behold, there she was, a new mom who had to demonstrate and compete with how ridiculously brilliant her child is (at least, in her perception). I don't get it. I think all we're seeing is Moms (may I include your friend in this?) who are just being very transparent about their own inadequacies. It has nothing to do with their kid. The need to do this is not coming from a healthy place, so feel free to embrace that fact as well.

    And yes, it is irrelevant! Do our children exist on a 'worthy of love' scale whereby the higher the development, the more worthy of love? NO! So, someone please shut these Mommy braggers up stat!

  5. Good God that was a rude comment.

    When people compare their kids with other people's kids it is a sure sign of insecurity and, oh yeah, BAD MANNERS. Just think about it for a second. Did they all potty train like clock work at XXX age? Did they all roll over at XXX age? Did they all start speaking at XXX age? Let me answer that for you:

    NO. They did not.

    Why? Because they are CHILDREN for God's sake. They are mini people. People are different. (thankfully) Everyone learns and develops at his/her own speed. Insecure parents cling to any indication of excellence (however they define it) in their kids that they can. They think that if their kid does x, y, or z earlier than other kids, well, then, it must be because they are *Excellent Parents*!!!!! It's all about them really. Otherwise they would be able to sit back and understand that kids develop at different speeds. Get over it crazy parents.

    No. Really. Get over it.

    And one other thing, I don't know this child or her family but developmental rates depend on many factors, like for instance, if the kid is an only, or if she has older siblings, or hmmmmm, I don't know, was adopted internationally, or transracially, or was orphaned or maybe instead grew in a safe and homogeneous environment ... you know, small stuff like that.


    Sorry about that Claudia. What an insensitive comment.

  6. This may quite possibly be the best thing you've ever written. I'm posting it on my wall, thank you very much!

    After all, isn't this why kids need families? The strongest, the fastest, the cleverest, the prettiest - they are the kids who would probably survive wherever and however they grow up. Families are what the rest of us need. Families are the places where we clutch our average children close to our average chests and run our fingers through their average hair and whisper in their average ears that nobody, nobody is more precious to us than them, and we say this because it's absolutely, totally true.

    From the mom of a 3 year old kid whole is too damn busy achieving emotional and speech and sensory MILEstones to waste his time with the alphabet for cripe's sake.


  7. Oh and by wall, I meant the real one, in the house. Not on FB.

  8. Hope this "friend" of yours doesn't read your blog. ;)

    This was very well-written. And omg, why would anyone ever say that?? People continue to amaze me. Heh.

  9. I'm really sorry she said that to you, a bit of a sucker-punch if you ask me. I wouldn't have known how to respond in that moment, either. In a way, I feel sorry for Princess Perfection. Pressure is on, honey--better learn those letters so mommy can prove herself to the world. Yikes.
    I love the pic of you three--beautiful.

  10. Reminds me of a very awkward parent meeting I was at this year. This young lady, 8th grade, has tested for years as well below average in most academic areas, plus has communication disorders, plus is not a native English speaker. She works her TAIL off to earn Bs and Cs. She is stubborn, persistent, and motivated. The parents, despite years of being presented with the information about their daughter's abilities, are mad AT HER because she's not earning A's. Our school psych was pointing at the test scores, at the bell curve she falls outside of, and saying, "A C is an average grade, but look, her academic skills are well below average, so think about how hard she's working to get those grades!" The parents were just unable to accept that their daughter was not going to "catch up," and so they were unable to appreciate WHO SHE IS--a kid who is willing to work far harder than most 13 year olds. It was so frustrating and sad.

  11. Wow, rude. My eldest is crazy smart - as in studies Latin and Ancient Greek and does virtual simulation brain surgery at age 8 (not kidding, there really are sites where she can do that) She scares me a little but I love her anyway. #2 kid, not quite reading independently at age 7 but a work ethic like none I have ever seen, especially loves stacking wood and building things. #3 does mental math like lightening but can't legibly write his numbers yet at age 5. Kid #4 is artistic and academically advanced but has trouble self regulating tantrums (read: is a Queen Bee Diva). #5 has an amazing vocab but similar self regulation issues to #4 but in boy form. Kid #6, has a rare syndrome and does not even sit up on her own at almost 2. Which of these kids do I count as the most "successful"in terms of parenting? None, they are all awesome.

  12. Ugh. God help her little princess perfect. And you are so right on. All children are amazing. It is not a competition. They are all lovable simply because they are.

  13. this was timely. I was actually beginning to find myself in the doldrums because M is so one-dimensional in his learning (linguistic) and falling behind in many other areas. I was beginning to feel like he'll never "catch up" in some stuff...This was a good reminder for me that the comparison game is always under the pretext of comparing children's development, but it's usually just a subliminal way to compete at parenthood.

  14. Gotta feel sorry for Princess Perfection, who will never know the security of being loved for who she is. She'll never be good enough for a parent like that--there will always be someone smarter, more clever, etc. We live in the Land of Parent Pissing Contests (aka metro Washington, DC), so I hear crap like this all the time. I feel so sorry for the kids.

  15. I didn't have time to read through the other comments and I'm sure I will when I do have the time (TIME? what is that??) but first of all, rude person to every say that, and yes, I love your description of whispering in your child's ear how they are the most precious person in the world to YOU. I hurt when I think of all the children that never, EVER hear such words.

    PS I also think there are a million different kinds of 'intelligences' and unfortunately, our society seems fixated on just a very few.

  16. I just commented to say I love you. I have 3 princess perfects and 1 prince down the street. They are my kids ages and the constant achievement comparisons drive me up a wall. Thanks for this today!

  17. I read your blog all the time and love it, but rarely comment. Just had to comment on this one, though, because I L-O-V-E it so much. For one thing, Princess Perfect's Mom's comment is utterly appalling. For another thing, I too want to save the paragraph commented on above. And for a third thing, your post calls to mind the book by Jamie Lee Curtis called, "Is There Really a Human Race?" (great book). Thanks so much for this post.

    Maggie S

  18. This post is yet one more reason that you continue to be one of my very favorite bloggers ever.

  19. You're better than me. I would have kicked her out. In fact, when a similar comparison was voiced to me, I walked away and have yet to bring myself to have a conversation with "Perfect Mom". She was comparing a number of kids in the school and commented on mine. I am not interested in comparing or competing. They're KIDS!! They're all wonderful and amazing (and struggling and learning) in their own ways! An mine are darn awesome! I've never felt the Mama Bear about to come out so strongly than that moment.

    1. Great post! I love your blog but rarely comment...
      Of course our adopted children are behind.... How could they not be.. No attachment, no bonding , poor nutrition... a traumatic past that we might never fully know. ..Our third child was adopted from Ethiopia at 10 months . It took one year for her to fully bond ( We have 2 older bio kids and another subsequently adopted at birth). She did not start kindergarden this year at 5 but will start at 6 because she was not behaviourally ready. I am thankful she is only 1-2 years behind. Our job is to help her catch up if she can and achieve what she can... If she cannot catch up , I am thankful as well... for her...
      When people bring this up, I sweetly tell them that "MY daughter LIVED in an orphanage for 10 months". That really changes the direction of the discussion...

  20. Man, you have some rude "friends". I am a super competitive person and I constantly compare my kids to others. But NOT OUT LOUD. Also, part of it is, as your commenters have said, as a way to gauge myself as a parent. But mostly, it is based in my fear. My fear for my children's futures. No matter how many times I try to talk myself down from the compare and contrast window ledge, I end up there mentally ALL THE TIME. That being said, I know it doesn't do anybody any favors least of all my kids. And I know that friendships with other mothers are key to my sanity - why would I risk that? I try and say everything you said in your post to myself to shut off the crazy competitive woman who lives in the back of my skull.

  21. Wow. Yes, yes, and yes. Well said.

  22. Sure, indeed. We're educating them to end up being men and women and ways to help to make their particular means. The actual Basics and all sorts of in which blow arrives anyhow, but who wants a kid to go through not understanding them selves or another men and women? That's a unhappy life. We view it all the time nowadays, proper? Figuring out how to be somebody, that is the essential.Rs To GoldBillig WOW Gold


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