“I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” – Erica Cook

Competition can be fun…and it can be helpful. It can challenge us to push ourselves and each other to do better, work harder, and keep trying. But there is something I’m learning again and again in this journey with Eliza that extends beyond just parenting: it can also be poisonous. It can shift our perspective away from the things that really matter and create a sense that we aren’t all on the same team. And it can be so hurtful when usually the intention is anything but.

Eliza is 10 months old, and I still dread those stupid evaluation sheets that accompany every well baby visit. On each one, her scores dip lower than the last, and I find myself wanting to make notes in all the margins of just how far she’s come and how much she can do. And I hate that she’s already being measured on a standard chart with percentiles and ranges that begin a lifetime of comparisons. But the thing that stings the most sometimes comes from the very mamas sitting beside me in the waiting room.

I am on a private discussion forum with other PWS moms who seem to echo similar stories of moments when their children were sitting beside another close in age. The conversation starts out innocently…”How old is your little one? Is she walking yet? Talking? How many teeth does she have?” And when the answers are met with a simple, “not yet,” it’s followed with the other parent’s proud announcements of so-and-so’s steps, words, and four teeth. I am not saying that’s bad, but sometimes it’s hurtful. Especially when the next question is “what’s wrong with her?” NOTHING! I want to scream it out loud! She is on her own journey, and I have no doubt she’ll reach those milestones eventually, but I have no interest in racing to that finish line, because really, it’s not a race at all.

And it isn’t just kids with a diagnosis because if we think about it, all our children have special needs. They are all fearfully and wonderfully made with their own struggles and with their own gifts. So are we as parents! But somehow, we seem to have lost sight of the beauty in that diversity and instead focused on the details that don’t really matter. We see someone thinner or smarter or wealthier, and the green-eyed monster rears its head and convinces us that we are somehow less than.

But here’s the truth I’m learning: we really are all in it together. And thank God because I really don’t think I can do this parenting, living in the world thing on my own. I want to make it, I want my girls to make it, but I want everyone else to make it too. To make it not just to the finish line but also to make the journey along the way a little more beautiful than it was before…for everyone.




3 thoughts on “Competition

  1. Hi! Thanks for sharing how you feel. I think I did or said something stupid the first and only time I met you and your sweet baby months ago.

    You don’t owe me an answer but I am always conflicted on what to do in situations like that… From a place of good intent, do I ask no questions and risk making one think they don’t matter because things seem different or does one ask? Should I act like I don’t notice or don’t “care”? What would be an example of an exchange with a stranger that has left you with some peace? It’s tricky but I do believe all people are fearfully and wonderfully made, even if different.

    I pray for solid progress on the many milestones Eliza and her family will experience–on her own terms and timeline!


    • Hi Tamara! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, but I have been thinking about your question since I first read it. First, you never said anything stupid when we first met…you were so kind, and your questions were thoughtful and honest. I know each parent feels differently when talking about her little one, but for me, questions about Eliza’s cast or helmet or oxygen are welcome…in fact, they often make me feel more comfortable. I’m sincerely happy to tell people about her journey and to spread the word on a syndrome that I myself had never even heard of until we landed in the NICU.

      Mostly, though, I think parents of little ones with special needs are walking a sometimes scary and uncertain journey and appreciate any words of encouragement or just positive remarks in general. I think that’s true of all parents! In the scenario I mentioned of two moms in the waiting room, there wasn’t necessarily a need to ask questions (although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all). I just feel like there is always a window to say something kind (and honest)…something like, “she has beautiful eyes” or “look at that sweet smile.”

      I don’t know if that helps. I feel like I’m fumbling over trying to explain that really it is just in approaching it with kindness instead of comparison or judgment. And when that’s the intent, you won’t go wrong 🙂 And thank you for the prayers!!


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