I have never been very competitive.
When I was in middle school, I remember stealing the soccer ball away from my opponent, who happened to be my science partner, then stopping to ask if she was “okay”. I would always let my friends cheat when playing checkers and I voted against myself in school elections because I really liked the other candidate.
I always liked playing games; I just never cared who won.
There is a universal thing that happens when one becomes a parent – regardless of circumstance, age, socio-economic status, even parenting philosophies – we want to connect to other parents. The journey to become a mother is one unlike anything we have experienced before. Our bodies change, our exhaustion levels rise, and our desire for Pirates Booty cannot be satiated. We whisper advice to each other about which breast pump is preferred, the necessities to pack to bring home your new bundle of joy, and how to procure extra stretchy underwear from the hospital. Somewhere in all of this celebration, we accidentally start to play the game.
My son rolled over at three months. My daughter took her first steps at ten months. My little one recited all of King Lear before his first birthday.
And thankfully, I was not competitive child, because I was a mom who could never play.
As a teacher, there are a few buzz words that get thrown around a lot. Pedagogy. Scaffolding. Differentiation. And the one that assured you an A when you were lost – Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. In short, it is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what she or he can do with help. And because I know as a teacher, each student develops independently, I was never concerned about meeting milestones or comparing my little one to the norm. So I just happily observed.
Until my first born was ten months old. My husband and I had to attend a conference for his work and the baby and I were alone in the hotel room. There was a giant space to play and I left her on the carpet. When I came back, she had gotten herself wedged underneath a chair. I don’t know how she got there, she must have rolled, because despite our best efforts, she would not sit up. So before dislodging this little face from beneath the chair, where she was happily giggling – I did what most moms playing the game do, I asked Google. “What is the typical age for a child to sit up?” With a flushed face, I read about all of the milestones my daughter had not yet accomplished, or even started. I zoomed past words like typical, normal. Of course my pediatrician had mentioned them at each appointment, but it hadn’t phased me.
It was the beginning of a very long road. Early Intervention. Developmental Pediatricians. Specialists. Blood Work. MRI. Occupational Therapy. Speech Therapy. Physical Therapy. Genetics– and finally a diagnosis.
And then I really didn’t want to play.
However, six years later I realize being forced to sit on the sidelines was the best thing that could have happened to me as a mother. It removed all competition. I can listen with new unbiased ears. I now hear the parental version of who wore it better is actually a quiet plea for am I doing this right?
Frankly, no knows really what they are doing.
I think in this game most players are actually faking it. There is no map for anyone’s child. So let’s just get back to what really matters – how many weeks is it actually acceptable to continue wearing the stretchy hospital underwear – and let’s just all get a trophy for participation.