In an earlier RBOC, I related an instance at a birthday party in which my kid was talking about a new chapter book (s)he’d gotten. The mom had questioned my kid about who was actually reading the book, the kid or the adult (technically it was DC sitting on my lap and getting help on the occasional word). DC said, “Me and mommy read it.” Then the mother derisively said that her older child (who was standing there) pretended to read at that age, “she said she was just reading in her head.” As per usual when this comes up, I didn’t say anything. (Because, when I do acknowledge hir abilities I get cross-examined about being pushy and forcing useless skills like reading on my Rousseau-dream-child.)
Later, DC was actually reading something and the mom got that kind of shocked look that I see from time to time. It’s hard to describe. Suffice to say it is not one filled with surprised admiration.
When DC was born I didn’t like going to baby groups for kids hir age because there were always comparisons and always one or two moms who would see that my kid could do something that their kid couldn’t. Hir growth and abilities did not match any of the baby charts at all… things were done all out of order and months ahead or behind what the books said were normal. So (s)he was always way ahead of something and another mom would say sadly, “Your kid is doing X? My kid isn’t doing X… is there something wrong with my kid?” If I countered with something their kid could do that mine couldn’t I would feel crappy about saying something bad about my kid in front of my kid just to make some other mom feel better about her own insecurities. (Early on, I stuck to generalities about there being 5 types of skills that kids focus on and mine was a gross motor junkie… that generally led to the mom saying, oh, my kid is very verbal or into small motor skills, and the uncomfortableness would leave.)
I could be fixated on my kid’s shortcomings, like how despite having been mostly “potty trained” for almost 2 years, (s)he’s been having accidents about 3 days a week for the past couple of months (5pm right before we pick hir up, like clockwork) and is a LONG way away from night-times without diapers. Most other kids hir age are better about that. But I have faith and trust that (s)he’ll be diaper-free and dry eventually, and for years at a time. It only bothers me when we’re running late and have to make an emergency change or someone accidentally sticks a disposable diaper in the wash. I could worry that (s)he’s not as athletic as, or tall as, or still can’t pronounce the “r” sound like the other kids. But (s)he’ll get more coordinated, (s)he’ll grow, and if the “r” sound doesn’t come (s)he’ll do speech therapy like my sister did. I’m sure there’s lots of other ways I could be negatively thinking about my kid, but I’d rather focus on the positive and love everything that makes hir who (s)he is. If some day (s)he has trouble with a specific subject matter we’ll work to fix that just like we’ll do with pronunciation, but we’re not there yet.
When someone is feeling intimidated by my DC’s accomplishments, I don’t pull out that list of weaknesses to make the person feel better. I don’t like feeling that I should have to. Their kids will learn to read and do math and maybe even sit still in restaurants someday. They should have more faith and trust in their kids and they should celebrate their own kids’ accomplishments.
I do think my kid is better than any other kid out there (until we have a second, anyway). But, I also think that there’s something wrong if you feel the same way about hir instead of about your own kids. It’s not my place to say that all parents should think the world of their kids, as I understand there are different parenting styles. But don’t make me feel lousy for my kid’s accomplishments if you don’t think your kid is the best there is.
Now, I do want to note that I don’t get negative reactions from everyone (or from most people… but it’s the tiny subset that get you). Parents with more than one kid seem to understand that kids can be faster or slower or different and there’s nothing wrong with them. Parents of younger kids also generally don’t give any sort of negative reaction. In fact, today’s birthday party the host’s mom was very nice when she noticed DS’s printing (“They practice it a lot at preschool,” I replied, which is true). The thing DC gets praised about most is hir ability to follow directions and sit still and generally behave, and nobody ever seems nasty about that. Hir classmates who are athletic or artistic also never seem to provoke negative reactions from anyone (something I noticed after Donna Freedman pointed it out). It’s really just the academics. And that annoys me.
p.s. Recently at a birthday party we put together a little gift pack of books. We went with a pet dinosaur theme. The girl in question keeps talking about dinosaurs and the great books she got (they’re the in thing at school, but only the boys get to wear dinosaur shirts). She’s not so into the myriad princess barbies that also showed up. Why is it that girls are always given crappy princess stuff and barbie stuff? We ALL want to know more about dinosaurs. We ALL want to play with trains and trucks and legos and blocks. Girl toys SUCK. IBTP.
Disclaimer: We do believe that both genders should have access to stuffed animals and dolls in moderation, and we will buy a tea set for children of either gender because we love tea sets. We will, however, go with at tasteful dark blue china for male children even if we favor pink roses overall. We’re not complete cultural iconoclasts.