“Funmi is a young girl like you. She attends every program in church and leads the bible study sessions so well.”
Here we go.
Comparisons. The weird well loved companion of most parents this side of the globe.
It’s funny, isn’t it?
Maybe not. Especially if you are unlucky enough to be at the receiving end.
“Isn’t Anne in the same class with you?”
She scooped all the subjects awards yesterday while we just sat in the audience and clapped till our palms ached, wishing we were anywhere else but there..!”
“I saw an old classmate of mine a few minutes ago and I ducked. Because. He was driving a 2018 Toyota Corolla while I was on a bike!
He was not even the smartest in our class, yet..”
Well, that’s several steps lower than comparison if you had to do it to your self.
COMPARISONS: WHY WE EMBRACE IT
As a people, it is so tempting to fall into the comparison sink-hole, because there is always a reason to step out and step in.
I mean, we try to justify our own deep-seated inadequacies which we have tried unsuccessfully to squash, unknowingly mostly.
We thought we were straight A students, but then we were not.
Or..you actually was one, then, you ‘naturally’ want the trend to continue.
Or..somewhere deep in our heart, we still yearn to feel ‘complete’ through our kids and so we project our expectations on them to the detriment of other God-deposited talents, values and gifts.
So, she is not an award scooping star but could paint really well or play the piano like a Pro at 4.
That should count for something, ins’t it?
But no. Our hearts are fixated on the temporary moments of fame and applause as we stand beside our little trophy while the photographers do their thing.
A couple of days ago, we -DS2 and I saw the video of a 4 year old boy expertly performing wonders at the drums and my 7-going-on-8 young one wouldn’t stop going on about how he had wanted to move from the Saxophone to Drums and how maybe if his instructor had allowed it, he could also have been a super-human on the drums.
I chuckled, partly because his words were childishly hilarious and partly to gather my thoughts and mold them into the right words to make him see how ironic it all was.
“You play the piano and Sax too well for a seven year old and here you are whining about drums”…musing to myself.
Why the comparison?
It is okay to want the best for ourselves..heck, for our off-springs but it is UN-OKAY to want (them) to excel or fly just because the next girl/boy in the class is going home with As in every subject.
It is even more ludicrous to see a full grown adult putting unnecessary pressure on themselves just to ‘measure up’.
The age-old saying that no two people, no two kids are the same still remain true but we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned differently.
This is not to say however that we should be complacent or allow our children be contented with mediocrity but truth be told, most of the times, our comparisons yield little, if any positive results, seeing as they come from a dark place of insecurity.
We turn inwards like ravenous sharks sometimes, feeding off the flesh of our fears. The result?
We have our eyes fastened on the glittering A+ or B results, not minding the efforts behind the ‘Cs and Ds’ and the peculiarities of our beings as well as that of our children.
We got it wrong.
I did, but not anymore.
I was a shark.
PERSONAL COMPARISON FAIL
So sometimes in 2018, DS1 attempted his first ever external examination (which thankfully was ‘free and fair’), in preparation for Secondary School / High School and on our way home, we had a very interesting conversation after seeing the results.
Fact is, he excelled for a green horn but not well enough for me. You see, he got a B while I was expected an A if not A+. Just because.
Background: We had a deal; he wanted to see Black Panther and dad already promised to take him after his exams but I (whose money wasn’t at stake anyway) added a clause. It must be an A or no movie.
So he promised.
I was a shark.
His efforts yielded a B so mummy shark said, no movie. Just because.
“You need to focus more on studying rather than going to Wakanda.”
“What are they doing there anyway?”
For a more dramatic effect (seeing as I am a #NigerianMom), “those other kids who got A / A+ were equipped with the same resources like you”.
(Read: they had just one head like you!)
Yeah, I know. That was mean. Really low.
His face crumpled and his empathetic lil brother chose the right right moment to chip in:
“But mummy, the most important thing is to put in your best and and every other thing does not really matter”.
This little guy full of wisdom was just 7 years old.
Unhealthy comparisons, they ain’t funny; it is even more deadly even when we drive ourselves and our wards at break-neck speeds to engage in unwholesome acts just to measure up.
For kids, the comparisons start early enough. At most young mothers’ gathering.
At 6 months, s/he should be sitting up unaided.
At 8 months, yours should be chanting ma-ma or da-da.
At 9 months, he should be pulling himself up and taking his first steps to the glee of every proud adult watching.
Then, your Pre-Schooler should be coloring beautifully within the box.
S/he is in Year One and so should be leading the class in Literacy and Numeracy.
In Basic 3, they should cleanly / clearly write a 250-word essay on how she spent her last holiday.
That Year 5 kid? S/he should ace that exam / test exceptionally…A*, anyone?
Your teenager should be an orator.
…4.0 GPA every semester.
At 25, she should be married.
..of our self-devised metrics for determining and measuring our (child/ren’s) successes.
A time would come when we’d wish we could turn back the hands of time.
Because so many seemingly little successes are being buried unceremoniously while we keep our eyes peeled on the supposedly BIG exploits.
If we are being honest, we are the ones doing the exploitation and if we do not pull the hand brake fast enough, we’d soon wish we had spent more time encouraging and building our kiddos self-confidence while dwelling on their areas of strength more.
What are we to do?
Kids, mine as well as yours are such a huge blessing and sources of many boisterous laughter therapies and the different ways and paces they learn should do nothing other than to inspire us to let go of our vain tests and comparisons.
We should instead applaud their efforts (yeah..talking to myself here), interests and self-expressions; and more often than not, these are super amazing.
Kids learn and develop in different ways and paces. We do too.
Give him/her a pat on the back. Spare one for yourself too.
Applaud the baby steps and the many victories along the way while making efforts to discover how best to help them (and us) along these paths of learning and development.
That is our responsibility.
Our other responsibility is to put less weight on those numbers on the report booklets and instead focus more on communicating with our children, and their teachers as the new term begins.
Focus more on the evidences that show these children, our children are creatively exploring their world, making use of their unique gifts, pursuing interests, writing stories, making arts and utilizing resources.
I know numbers are very necessary and helpful in flagging issues before they fester; they are very important tools in helping us focus on what our children require to thrive but they should NEVER be used to determine or measure our children’s potentials and value.
We learn everyday…well, nearly everyday, at least I do.
I know our children will always surprise us (if we are available) at different points in their lives. These surprises would sometimes make us happily proud, enough to want to scoop them in our arms and spin round the universe at a dizzying pace and at other times, these surprises are going to hurt real bad and be difficult for us to understand or grasp. Mostly.
Not to worry, you did the same to your parent(s), remember?
Maybe. Maybe not.
You want a star but the child you have is the child you are given, the one you need.
Not the one you want. You cannot create any, remember?
And they are going to ridicule your choices at some point, under their breath or openly.
They might not like taking swimming lessons like you had hoped they’d do.
They might want to aspire to be a policeman or chef instead of an engineer or a medical doctor like you’d hoped.
They might not take an interest in sciences like you had wanted.
They might not like the clothes you picked out for them.
They might not like your yam, rather preferring their bff mum’s spaghetti. Hahaha.
They might and would do things we do not approve or support.
But we are going to have to learn to live with that, letting go completely after having prayerfully done our part (which excludes judging them constantly and comparing them with the next kid on the block), because we are aware of our biggest responsibility and duty.
And that is to LOVE and ACCEPT them, unconditionally.