crayonsRegular readers of this blog know by now that my 21-month-old daughter is delayed.  She is still learning to walk, and her speech is way behind that of other kids.

This past weekend, we attended the birthday party of a child from her class who was just turning two.  I have to admit, both my husband and I got a twinge watching the other kids paint their pumpkins, and the birthday boy blowing out the candles.  When will our daughter be able to do those things as effortlessly as their kids?

It’s hard not ask yourself these questions, not to fall into comparison, when your kid isn’t developing at the same rate as others.  But what I learned from the other parents at the party surprised me.I found myself voicing an awareness that my daughter wasn’t doing what the others were.  I wanted them to know that she has speech therapy and physical therapy; I wanted them to know that I know.  Essentially, I was trying to advertise that I’m not a lax or negligent parent just because she’s delayed.

The need to advertise comes up on me suddenly.  I’m normally a reasonably secure person.  Yet, motherhood still feels relatively new to me, and the feelings of inadequacy it can engender continue to startle.

But what I found was that after I made my disclaimer, the other parents chimed in with stories of their own comparisons.  “I see him next to his cousin, and he seems way behind,” or, “Sometimes she’s out in front with her development, and then she’ll start to lag,” or “The kids at the Montessori school are trilingual.”

In a sense, they were being kind, letting me know that I’m not alone in my fears.  They all seemed to like my daughter, who has a very sweet and loving personality, and were confident that she would catch up.

That’s what’s funny: how confident we can be about other people’s kids.  We’re sure they’ll be just fine.

The other parents weren’t necessarily worried, though, about their own kids being fine.  They were worried that fine wouldn’t be enough.

All I’ve been wanting, of late, is for my daughter to catch up, to be reassured that she will in fact be normal.  But it occurs to me that once that happens, I might fall into the trap of thinking normal isn’t enough.

The thing we all need to remember is that normal people are exceptional in some way.  There are so many different forms of intelligence, and we need to tap into what our children’s intelligence is.  Maybe it won’t be something championed in traditional academia (for example, maybe it’ll be art or music or carpentry).  But it’s there, waiting to be discovered and encouraged.

We have to remember that someone is always more exceptional in some area.  Comparisons just leave us all wanting.  We have to learn to hone our vision to see what’s amazing in our own child, instead of trying to figure out where they fall on the spectrum relative to others.  We (and they) will be happier for it.

Toddlers playing image available from Shutterstock.