I believe that, in our job as mothers, few things are as important as loving, generous and unconditional acceptance of the uniqueness of our children.
Very early, I've noticed, there's a competition between mothers (and even grandmothers), which puts a lot of unneeded stress on everyone involved – I personally was constantly reminded of the fact that there are many babies younger than Shira who surpass her in weight. Now a mother I know is worried because her child (16 months old) is far shorter than my daughter. There's such a wide variety of normal weight and height for babies as well as adults – in most cases there is truly no reason to worry.
Then there are the milestones of rolling over, sitting, crawling, walking, talking, and later, reading, writing and riding a bicycle. Those, too, are hugely blown out of proportion. Shira just started walking at 15 months. Up until now, in the past couple of months, people would look at me sympathetically and say, "oh, don't worry that she's still crawling. I'm sure she'll start walking soon enough" – even though I never said a word about her not walking yet, or me being uncomfortable about it.
Why should we be in competition about whose child completed such simple, natural milestones first? Will it matter, in the long run, whether a child learned to walk at 12 or 15 months? Or that a certain child was a late talker? I learned to read at 4, but today I can't say that my reading skills are better than of those people who learned to read at 6 or 7. Again, there's a pretty wide range of normal development, and if the child is anywhere near that range, there's probably no reason to fuss. On the other hand, if there is some sort of problem, all the more reason not to measure a child against some standards he or she cannot possibly keep up with.
Part of our job is to promote our children's education and development, yes, but also to accept the diversity and to let them know they are loved and accepted – unconditionally. Otherwise, who knows what deep scars it might leave in the tender soul of a child? Parents sometimes tend to point out the achievements of another child – good grades in school, playing the piano, ballet dancing – in a way that makes their own child feel like an ugly duckling. This doesn't prompt success, and even if it does in some way, it's destructive. Many years down the road, the child who becomes a grown-up may still feel he or she is never good enough.
Children aren't trophies, or honor badges, or show puppies to jump through hoops. They are unique individuals, and while it is certainly possible to understand a parent's pride over the child's achievements, and to understand disappointment and bewilderment when a child turns away from everything the parents had tried to teach him, it does not change the fact that unconditional love is an irreplaceable component.
Love, devotion, tenderness, patience, time. Lots and lots of time, days and months and years, which is essentially what our life is made of. How I pray every day for God to give me all those gifts so necessary for raising the children He placed, or might place in my arms. How I hope and pray to always see them the way he sees me – knowing and appreciating the true value of a human being, thinking the best, and loving unconditionally.
Photo credit: allposters.com
Photo credit: allposters.com