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January 5, 2015

Shifting Parenting from Comparison to Joy.

Public Domain: http://www.public-domain-image.com/people-public-domain-images-pictures/children-kids-public-domain-images-pictures/happy-child-finds-joy.jpg.html

I had high hopes first time I took my daughter Emma to a story time at the local library.

The event was free and seemed like a great way to meet local moms.

When we arrived at the “story corner,” it was packed with moms, nannies and other toddlers who looked about Emma’s age. We found a good spot on the floor and waited for the story to begin.

My daughter sat through the story time for a total of three minutes before she decided to get up and start exploring. She played with all of the toys in the toy corner. She was loud and fast and messy. Every single one of the other kids sat on his or her caregiver’s lap, listening attentively to the story time while she pulled library books off the shelves and let them crash down onto the floor. I frantically tried to clean up after her.

After about 10 minutes of Emma wreaking total havoc in the library, we packed up and left.

I couldn’t help but compare her to all of the other kids who were paying close attention to the story.

When that little voice pops into my head, pointing out how Emma is different, I do my best to ignore it. After all, Emma had a great time at the library even though she had no interest in the story. She loved looking at the different books and stacking them on the floor. If she was happy with the morning, shouldn’t I feel the same?

One of the biggest struggles that I have dealt with and observed as a parent is to not compare my kid to others. When I recently heard a younger child in Emma’s dance class correctly identify several colors, I wondered when Emma would stop confusing blue and green. Such moments happen regularly, even though I know that nothing good comes out of these thoughts in my head.

As put so perfectly by Theodore Roosevelt, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

I know this to be true. It doesn’t matter to me when Emma figures out her colors, so I don’t know why I let myself even compare her to others.

My daughter is fearless and quite energetic. She loves to explore, climb on furniture and leave a trail of toys behind her. She is a wild child. I love her energy. She reminds me to be bold and brave and to chase after what I want. But I constantly have these moments like the story time incident, when I can’t help but compare her to other kids.

Recently, I have been able to shift my perspective in these situations by simply not paying attention to what other kids are doing and focusing that energy on my daughter instead.

By staying more present for Emma, I am able to witness the joy in her life.

I pay attention to what makes her smile and laugh to make sure that nothing takes away from the happiness I feel while observing these moments. Rather than comparing my child to the toddlers who sit quietly around circle time, I celebrate Emma’s energy as she runs around the circle.

Instead of the sharp sensation that I feel when I notice that another child has mastered a skill that Emma has not, I think about her infectious joy and all of her amazing accomplishments to date.

I find that I smile to myself in these moments, as they fill me up to the brim with happiness.

These are the only moments that truly matter.

I know that this is just the beginning. In the years to come, she will celebrate her strengths and struggle through her weaknesses, and I will be much happier as a mother if I don’t let myself get caught up in what other kids are doing. I want to help Emma succeed, but on her own terms. Ultimately, she will follow her own path.

In reality, I would change nothing about my daughter. Not a single trait. I love her so fully and completely, with every fiber of my being, just the way she is. By focusing more on what she is doing, I find myself noticing more about her. I cherish these little bits of information about my daughter and file them away in the back of my head.

By allowing this shift in my perspective, I am becoming more present as a mother. In these moments, I remind myself to not let comparison steal even one moment of joy from my time with my daughter.

It turns out that creating this change was simple: I just stay focused on my daughter, which is how it should be anyway.

 

 

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Author: Becky Tountas

Apprentice Editor: Kendra Hackett / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Public Domain

 

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