Everyone tells you not to compare.
If you have a child with special needs, you tend to compare that child’s progress to her siblings. Because as much as people tell you not to compare, you can’t turn your brain to the *off* position. If you could turn your brain off, you’d stop thinking about the Halloween candy in the kitchen. Or you’d stop thinking about the phone call you have to make by Friday. Or you’d stop thinking about the next chapter in your life.
But you can’t just *stop* thinking. Your brain turns and moves, turns and moves–as much as you might want to quiet your thoughts. I’ve actually tried meditation many times, and I’ve gotten decently good at it. But even if I sit down to quiet my thoughts for 20 minutes, only 3 minutes of that will be successful. For the other 17 minutes, my mind is still on overdrive.
So if people tell me not to compare my children, it’s impossible because I can’t just shut down my thoughts.
But I want to explain that comparison isn’t a bad thing!
I used to beat myself up about it. I would think: Hmmm…Emmy’s not rolling over yet. I’m pretty sure Charlotte was rolling over by now.
Or I used to think: Was Charlotte able to cross midline this early? Emmy isn’t doing it yet. (Midline = a term I never thought I would have to learn. Now, I know it well.)
And when people would yell at me to stop comparing, I would criticize myself for doing so. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop?! Yet, I was unable. So let me rephrase…
I was thinking.
It’s ok to think, right? Everybody does it. And it doesn’t sound as bad as “comparing.”
When I was thinking about Emmy’s progress in relation to Charlotte, I was simply *thinking.* I love, love, love, love, love Emmy dearly. I think she is amazing and smart and funny and gorgeous and sweet. I feel the same about Charlotte and now, Theo. But my kids are different. They do things on different schedules. They have different personalities. They progress differently. It’s not that one who moves more quickly is better. It’s that one who moves more quickly is different.
When people use the term “compare,” it sounds as though one is better than the other. That’s not true. They’re just different.
And I think it’s ok to observe differences. I think parents should give themselves permission to see the ways in which their children are unique.
There is a parent who has twins with Williams syndrome. She commented that she has a hard time not comparing them. Can you even imagine having twins and being told not to compare? Isn’t that the most impossible task in the world? I mean, how do you NOT compare?
But please understand that these comparisons aren’t negative. They’re just thoughts…observations. As human beings, we have thoughts. And, unless we’re going to meditate 24-7, it’s impossible to shut our brains off.
Now, of course, if you notice that your comparisons are turning negative, that’s a different story. “She’s not crossing midline yet” is different from “Why can’t she cross midline yet when her brother did it so perfectly at 1 month old?” Of course, that’s totally different. And, yes, that would be negative.
But most parents I know are proud of even the smallest accomplishment. Their comparisons aren’t negative. Their comparisons don’t affect their LOVE. These are just thoughts…passing thoughts. Love is constant.
So if you have one of those passing thoughts, don’t beat yourself up (as I did for so long). It’s ok to see differences. They’re just little reminders that your children are unique and special in their own ways.
As you can see, my girls dressed very differently for Halloween. Charlotte knew for months that she wanted to be princess Elsa. That’s it–do not pass go. Emmy, on the other hand, isn’t into princesses. She has always been obsessed with monsters. First, our red, furry friend, Elmo. And now, blue Sulley from Monsters Inc.
I love that she loves monsters!! It’s different. It’s cute. It shows a side to her personality–a fun and daring side. She’s rarely afraid. In fact, when Charlotte didn’t want to stick her hand in the “eyeball” soup at Halloween, Emmy dove right in–grabbing prizes for both of them.
Of course I had the passing thought: It’s funny that Emmy is so into monsters, while Charlotte never was.
But it’s just that…a thought.