“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.