Standing in line at the bank today, I got asked the question I have come to dread: “So, is he walking yet?”After responding with the same defensive “No–but he’s really close!” that I have been saying for over two months now, she launches into this big story about how her niece is only nine months old and already walking. She says it like she just composed her first symphony or something. “That’s nice,” I tell her. What I’m thinking is, “I bet she’s an ugly baby.”
My son is smart, entertaining, healthy, and completely within the normal age range for learning to walk. He will walk when he’s good and ready, and I’m completely fine with that. I harbor no secret anxieties about his development, I have no desire to push him to reach that milestone before he’s ready. So why do I feel like we were in a race, and just lost?
It’s completely overwhelming, this feeling of competition that washes over me. Logically, I know that every child is different and they all do things in their own time. Logically, I know that comparing my child to another is not only unhealthy and frustrating for me, but also a complete waste of time. But logic has nothing to do with it. I simply cannot control myself. I see another baby about J’s age, and I am compelled to compare them. How much does your baby weigh? Does he talk yet? Oh, he’s walking. Well, mine has more teeth and he says “patty cake!” I sound like a fourth grader, for crying out loud.
And of course, this competitiveness isn’t limited to just strangers I happen upon. Oh, no. I like to share the experience with my friends and family as well. It usually starts off innocently, something like “How’s it going?” Next thing I know, we’re in a verbal sparring match pitting baby against baby, birth story against birth story, mother against mother. A perfect example is the comment made by a friend of mine on my post about signing with my baby. “Your baby signs? Neat. Well, mine knows Spanish!” Clearly, she cannot control herself either.
The funny thing is, I don’t even think it’s about Jayden at all. It’s about me. Underlying all the defensiveness is the feeling that my mothering abilities are in question. Somehow, every time someone asks me if he’s walking, or sleeping through the night, or solving world hunger. I feel like somehow I’m failing as a mom because the answer is no. I may not think that consciously (and I’d deny it if you asked), but the feeling is there.
I’m wrong, of course. We are not better parents if our baby insert milestone here earlier than another, and quite frankly all this ridiculous competetion is a waste of energy. We should be uniting and focusing our collective energy on more important things, like eradicating florescent lighting or banning loud commercials on TV. Oh, and did I mention that J signed the entire national anthem this afternoon? Take that, walking nine month old.