thoughts on an earlier kid post

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.

17 Responses to “thoughts on an earlier kid post”

  1. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I think it would be totally f*cken hilarious if you responded, “Yeah, isn’t she amazing? Chances are your kid’s gonna be working for my kid some day.”

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Oh CPP, you always make me chuckle! I love your use of language. :)

  3. Roshawn @ Watson Inc Says:

    Certainly don’t apologize for academic accomplishment. If that offends some of the other parents, so be it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and should actually be lauded.

  4. First Gen American Says:

    I tend to downplay my kids. Like when I read your note, I immediately thought…my kid doesn’t follow instructions or sit still even though his teachers say he does. I tend to think all parents think their kids are smarter than they really are. The reality is that most kids are amazing at how much they pick up in such a short period of time. Yes, I think my kid is amazing, but not any more amazing than a lot of others.

    I also remember a nurse being condescending to my husband because he used a big word that she didn’t understand (but should have). She asked my son if dad uses big words with him too. Um Yeah.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think a lot of parents don’t give their kids enough credit and don’t realize how intelligent they actually are. (This from my experiences teaching/tutoring in addition to being around other parents now that I have one of my own.) Especially with girls– they think their daughters are naturally bad at math… their sons are just “all boy” and unable to sit still, even if that’s not true. Though maybe it is a regional thing.

      My kid is more amazing than any other because (s)he’s mine and DH’s. That alone makes hir more wonderful. I would hope that other folks would have that sort of parent-love for their own kids too. It would make me feel sad if people wanted to trade their own kids for mine.

      • First Gen American Says:

        I do think every kid has something outstanding about them, including mine. (Potty training wasn’t one of them), so don’t fret, they do eventually grow out of it. One of the sweetest sounds was when I heard the toilet flush in the middle of the night and it wasn’t an adult who did it.

  5. Everyday Tips Says:

    It can be hard to know what to say in these situations. I have caught myself saying ‘yeah, he could read young, but he couldn’t do this, or that’. It isn’t fair to the child, but sometimes words have escaped me at times.

    My oldest had night-training issues and I feared he would never be out of pullups. All is fine and good, but it did take awhile. My son could do anything mentally when he was young, but took forever to walk, talk, potty train, etc. You just never know what you are going to get. All you can do is encourage their interests and help them through the tough spots and hope for the best!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Very well put!

      And thank goodness they make pull-ups in all sorts of sizes… As far as I can tell there’s nothing that can actually be done to encourage night training (we do do cloth instead of disposables most nights, but that hasn’t actually helped). Some people say to wake up in the middle of the night and create a bathroom run, but that seems to have only minor success. So we’re working on just being patient. At least now (s)he can take off the diaper and stick it in the laundry hirself.

      • Everyday Tips Says:

        My husband was the last one to bed each night so he would grab my son and have him use the bathroom before retiring to bed himself. That worked quite well, but I was terrified about sleepovers…

  6. Link love (Powered by a pinch of fatigue and a whole lot of teamwork) « Musings of an Abstract Aucklander Says:

    […] really IS fraught with minefields. What does one do when their child progresses faster or slower than his or her peers? Nicole and Maggie have come up with a diplomatic […]

  7. bogart Says:

    Not there yet, maybe just because we’re careful to avoid associating with other parents or children or, you know, humans generally. Makes life so much simpler %). Though I did find I was sufficiently focused on being positive with DS that when he was 2 and would say something wrong, rather than saying, “No … ,” I’d say, “Actually …” Of course he picked it up and then everyone cracked up at my very small kid saying “Actually, …” e.g. a time that he gave a friend a high-five and she said, “That was great!” and he said, “Actually, that was horrible.” (He was right; he missed her palm. It was funny in the moment …).

    But the one thing that occurs to me quickly if those moments do prove awkward is that my general impression is that the skill set a kid has between about age 0 and 7, barring significant deficiencies (e.g. not talking at age 5) and except for the sort of skills studied by Heckman (ability to delay gratification and so forth), are not at all predictive of, well, anything later in life, so I suppose there’s always the option of working that into the conversation.

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Actually… you may be right!

  9. Valerie Says:

    Given how much parents are apt to compare children (right in front of the children), it’s no wonder kids get competitive so early on. I was considerably behind in reading compared to my sister and (now yale lawyer) best friend, but seriously, i still managed to get a frickin’ phd, so does it really matter??

    a friend of mine is pregnant, and is already down on how her kid is going to be less amazing/developed/etc than her nephew. what gives?? i kind of wanted to smack her for being down on her own kid, because if she’s not behind hir, who will be?

  10. Molly On Money Says:

    I have two girls (not biologically linked) that are 6 months apart and very different. I often feel trapped. When I applaud one for her extraordinary gift the other feels I’m not acknowledging them and vice versa. I find myself labeling their gifts like, “Oh you remember all the words in a song after one listen but your sister is really good with directions”. My inference is that one will always be better at directions then the other so don’t even try!
    Great post- it got me thinking…..

  11. I am not crazy « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] that one has with some people when one’s child is doing more than their child is.  In this post, I talked about how I hate it when they put their own kids down, how much I hate comparing kids […]

  12. montessorimusing Says:

    If people tell me how bright, beautiful etc my child(ren) are, I usually say “Yes, they are. Thank-you!” with a big smile. But it took a lot of practise.

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