We compare our children with each other. Yes, I know that pretty much every expert in the world says that this is a bad thing for parents to do. But honestly, has there ever been a parent with more than one child that has avoided this much maligned activity?
Wait, it gets worse. We also compare our children with their cousins. Of course this is completely unfair. At least when we compare our own kids with each other we are comparing people that all share the same parents.
My kids would tell you otherwise. Especially the older ones. They know that their younger siblings have different parents than they had. The elder children occasionally make knowing remarks about how we never let them get away with thus-and-such behavior at that age. Sometimes they are bold enough to question our softened parenting tactics.
For the record, I agree with my older kids. My wife and I are not the same parents that we were a decade ago. Hopefully some of that is due to having grown in wisdom. The older children were the guinea pigs that helped us refine our skills. We are now somewhat better versed on which battles are worth fighting and when it is best to take a long rather than a short approach to a problem.
I also believe that it is impossible to parent each child equally and that it is imbecilic to attempt such. It sounds like trying to parent the way the old Soviet Union tried to run its government. Our children are different people with different personalities, needs, interests, capacities, etc. Each one requires a customized parenting approach.
Of course, I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility that being older and more worn out might have something to do with why we parent our younger children differently than how we parented their older siblings at the same age.
But wait. I wasn't writing a post about the evolution of parenting methods. I was writing about comparing children. Heck, we even compare our children with neighbor kids and people we don't even know. I don't know which expert came up with the sage counsel to strictly avoid comparing children, but it's an impossible and maybe even an idiotic standard. What real parent that is not in a vegetative state can live up to it?
We compare both the good and the bad. We try not to be too obvious about it. We mostly avoid the "Why can't you be more like your brother?" kind of thing. I think. But sometimes we think it to ourselves.
Or we gratefully sigh that at least our child is not like so-and-so. Who happens to be somebody else's child. Because making such a comparison might be a poorly veiled commentary on the other child's parents. And we wouldn't want to pass judgment on what rotten parents our child's sibling has.
Is it wrong to note that one child is deeply introspective and intelligent while another exudes musical performance capabilities? Or to recognize that our daughter's emotional responses differ significantly from those of her brothers? Or to acknowledge that our Asperger's child's pathway to adult kit requires a lot more assembly than most of his siblings' kits? Or to observe that one child looks more like his maternal grandfather than any of the others? Or to see that my twin nephews have distinct personalities and talents, although, they look similar?
Are not such comparisons the fodder for making parental decisions? Is it even possible to be an effective parent without drawing contrasts and observing correlations of this nature?
Self appointed experts continually warn us of the dark side of comparing a child's beauty or physical prowess with another. For the record, some of our kids were recently watching home movies from when our family was younger, and, doggone it, each of our kids has been beautiful. In fact, they are all beautiful today. It's the truth. Although, I might be biased.
When I compare my children with each other or with others, I am usually simply recognizing the fact that each child is an individual. One son made it through basic piano, but he will never command the keyboard like his brother. So what? That's not where his capacities and interests lie. It's not something to fret about. It's an opportunity for further exploration.
Now that we've established that comparing children is not the dark evil that bad-mouthing psychologists and pseudo-psychologists have spent decades making it out to be, maybe it's OK to ask why my children can't be more like their cousin who is a dentist, or their cousin who is pursuing a full-ride chemistry PhD at a top flight university, or ....
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