I hate the concept of “keeping up with the Jones-es-es”. It’s ridiculous. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m totally non-competitive. Maybe it’s that I’m a little lazy. Who are these Jones anyway? And what makes them so great?
I just read an article that my bestie posted on Facebook. It is entitled “What Should A 4 Year Old Know?” I thought, “I have a 4 year old, I guess I should read this.” It was not what I expected. I assumed it would be a list of all of the academic knowledge my big girl should have already acquired. Stuff like counting, letters, writing skills, reading War and Peace, ya know, the usual. Instead, it delved deeper than I had imagined it would.
This article stemmed from an internet conversation on a parenting forum. One mother’s nervous question lead to a series of my-kid-can one-uppers that probably perpetuated this mom’s anxiety. With all of my nervousness, academia is not something I’m fretting about. They will eventually know the same things everyone else does and if they don’t, I will help them. But, it’s what they should know about themselves that’s most important, and their self worth or inherent values should not be derived in comparison to those of their peers.
The article outlined five things that 4 year olds should know, but then five things that parents should know, too. Parents are often so concerned with comparing their child to another, that they can lose sight of what makes their own child different and therefore, special. In some ways, I did it, but not really in a “Dick, Jane, and Mack are all walking. Why isn’t my Susie even crawling yet?” It was more, “Oh crap, Susie won’t get her legs up underneath her. She has a gross motor skill delay. I better call an occupational therapist and get her evaluated, STAT!” Sounds like me, right?
Turns out, not every kid has to crawl before they can walk. My big girl taught me that (after the OT said, “She’s fine.”). Today, she runs, she climbs, she is a spectacular ballerina (as far as I’m concerned). She was going to do it her own way, not necessarily the way I did it or thought she was going to do it. She and I are different and that’s a good thing. As her parent, I need to focus on her individuality and help it develop so she can feel her own self worth, know that she is incredible as she is, and that her mom is her number one supporter and advocate.
Even within one family, competitiveness can rear its ugly head. I think this is just innate in some, but I sincerely hope to avoid this within my own little family unit. I can already tell that my girls are two completely different beings, which I hope will help in fostering a supportive relationship between them instead of a competitive one. I love watching them play, sometimes together enjoying the same thing and sometimes doing their own things. One seemed to be born with a paintbrush in her hand and a ballet slipper on her foot. The other loves building legos and bouncing off the furniture (or climbing up a wall, she literally tried to climb a wall yesterday). I never want to compare them, but of course, I just did, didn’t I?
I hope that their differences, and those of their peers, will make them stand out when they want to, teach them that unique is a good thing, and that above all else, being kind to one another is way more important than who knows more, who can jump higher, or who achieves their goal faster. My favorite quote from this article summed it up for me. “That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest.”