I was visiting with a girlfriend-slash-mother-of-a-six-month-old this past weekend; it was the first time since baby was born that I had a chance to think about the kind of parent I am going to be. Up until that conversation, I’d been so focused on just covering the basics–feeding and clothing baby–that I hadn’t really thought too much about the art of parenting.
What got me thinking further into the future than the next feeding was my friend telling me about getting together with her friends who have a baby daughter about the same age as her son. The friends’ daughter was already sitting up by herself whereas my friend’s son was still in tripod mode, using his arms to steady himself. That small difference was making my friend wonder if perhaps her beautiful baby boy was a bit behind the power curve.
Now, from everything I’ve read and heard, baby girls progress faster than boys from–well, pretty much throughout life. I reminded my friend of this, but she still seemed genuinely concerned about her son’s development even as she recognized that there was little to really worry about.
“I never thought I’d be one of those competitive parents,” she said. “But I find myself looking at ways to help him progress.”
This was a rather eye-brow-raising statement to me, as my friend is–and has been for ages–probably the most chill and laid back chick I know. She never sweats the small stuff and always sees a rational solution in any situation. And yet here she was semi stressing over the development performance of a six-month-old.
What did that say about me and what I was going to be like six months down the road?
I am high strung, hot headed, and half baked to my friend’s calm, cool, and collected. Moreover, I am totally guilty of holding myself to sometimes unachievable standards.
With all that said, I don’t know that there’s much hope that I can avoid falling into a category other than hyper competitive parent. Not only do I sort of come pre-programmed that way, but I feel like I’m already being conditioned to rate baby against his peers.
I think back to baby’s two-week check-up. First, the nurse made note of the fact that baby kept his hands open, fingers outstretched; most babies that age keep their hands balled up in fists, she said. It was unusual that he was doing that so young, she had said.
As sad as it is to say, I felt a little surge of pride when she said that. It was like some little third-party validation that he was as special as his momma thought he was.
Then our doctor gave me three printouts of how baby measured up against most kids by head size, weight, and length. I remember feeling kind of happy looking at his weight and length; he seemed to be in the top of the class.
It was a different story when it came to head size. I mean, I thought his head was big; it’s still mind blowing to me that his head actually made it out of me. But according to the doctor’s measurements, his head only ranked in the 47th percentile. In other words, his head was smaller than average.
My kid has a pea head.
My brother would say it’s to be expected. He always said I had a pea head and a pencil neck, so maybe it’s genetic. But I was sort of disappointed to hear that. As irrational as it sounds, it sort of made me feel like maybe because my kid’s head was on the small side, he might be less than brilliant.
I know that makes no real sense, but the fact that I even entertained this kind of internal dialogue after getting handed the printouts of baby’s basics is like a yellow flashing light to me. Caution: hyper competitive parent up ahead.
I hope to god I don’t evolve into that kind of parent, but at the same time, I can recognize how easily I could fall into that parenting trap. I could totally become one of those super competitive (and therefore super demanding) parents, even if I didn’t brag about my kid to anyone who would listen. I wouldn’t have to vocalize anything; all I would need to do is think it to be able to classify myself as a competitive parental unit.
So, how do you stop yourself from turning into the kind of parent you never said you’d be?
I just don’t know. Part of me just says keep taking a few steps back to look at the bigger picture and that will keep reality in check. (Easier said than done, to be sure.) However, another part of me wonders if there’s anything you can do. Maybe all parents–or at least ones that actually care about their kids–have a competitive streak, even if they’re successful at keeping it mostly hidden.