Today Suddenly Mummy is findings others bragging about their children a little upsetting.
All parents brag about their children. I know that. Before I had children I used to brag about my friends’ children so I could join in a bit with the seemingly endless conversations. Now I have OB, I certainly do brag about him. And I brag about my fostered children too.
But all too often, I find it hard to keep up. I have good friends with a 3-year-old little girl who is two months younger than OB. She can write her name. She can dress and undress herself and take herself to the toilet. She can recognise all of her letters and is beginning to spell out simple consonant-vowel-consonant words. Yeah. OB can do none of those things.
On one level I’m ok with all of that. OB has many wonderful qualities, and is progressing really quite well for a child of his age. He isn’t developmentally delayed, and in most areas his abilities are in line with his age. Plus, my friend’s daughter hasn’t been from pillar to post and experienced all the early instability that OB has had.
I’m very happy with his progress. Delighted in fact, since in so many areas he started so far behind.
Take swimming. He is terribly afraid of water. I was reading through the daily notes I kept when I was his foster carer and saw there the first time I mentioned his hysterical reaction to having a bath. It was the night after he had spent his first transitional night with his birth mum as part of the lengthy process of rehabilitation that ultimately failed. Did something happen in the bath that night he was away? I’ll never know, but I suspect something. He never had a problem before, and he has been terrified of water ever since.
So I knew that swimming lessons would be a trial for him. A nightmare even. Yet despite this, and after many months of crying, just under a year in and he has earned his second badge. It’s very basic – I think it’s for making it one width across the pool without the teacher holding him (but with loads of armbands and a pool noodle!), but I was proud as anything when he got it.
The same week, my friend’s daughter got her third badge. She has been swimming just five months. I have to admit that I just didn’t want to hear about it. I found it hard to be all excited for her when her Mummy was showing me, and almost choked on the congratulatory words. Awful isn’t it.
She’s three years old, and she’s done really well, but I, the adult, felt like a jealous child.
I said the right things though, and I sorted my head out afterwards. I reminded myself that I really don’t believe that parenting is a competition. I reminded myself that someone else’s achievements don’t downgrade my son’s awesome achievements, especially considering how far he has had to come. I reminded myself that I truly love my friend and their daughter. I remembered how I plan to home educate partly because I don’t like the competition and continual assessment our education system is riddled with and don’t think it would be a good environment for my son.
In the end it was all good. But today, I encountered another bragging situation that nearly brought me to tears. We went to an air show. It was stupid of me, really. OB hates loud and unexpected noises. He always has. I think I know the reasons for it. Why it didn’t occur to me that low flying jet planes would be unbelievably noisy, I don’t know. My only excuse is that I’ve never been to an air show before. Not a great excuse I know.
We travelled there and back with friends – surrogate grandparents to OB. At the air show, we met up with their two children and their young families. Of course, once the planes started, OB was mortified by the noise. He couldn’t enjoy the red arrows because he was holding his ears and burying his head in my stomach and when the tornado screamed by it was almost as though his head was being torn right off. Baby Girl wasn’t a fan either, so I had two frightened, crying children to deal with. Thankfully, we all enjoyed the quieter planes and, on the whole, I think OB did like the event – he does love his planes. He went to bed fine tonight and doesn’t seem to have any lasting upset. Next time we’ll have ear defenders!
But on the way home, our friends bragged and bragged about how their two older grandchildren (four and two) weren’t frightened of the noise. They didn’t cry. They seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.
How pleased they were that they enjoyed the red arrows so much. How adventurous the two-year-old is and not afraid of anything.
Who brags about that?!
They are lovely people. I have known them for over 20 years and I love them very much. They adore OB and take him out to the park and other places just because they want to. But I nearly cried in the back of their car today.
And I thought, this is probably going to be par for the course. Parents will be excited about their children’s achievements, and they will want to share that with their friends. I know that all parents sometimes find the bragging of others a little hard to manage. My very good friend has a daughter with invisible special needs, and I know she struggles to hear all about the achievements of other friends’ children who all seem to find everything so easy while her child struggles and falls more and more behind.
I also know that all parents have a long list of things about their own children that they don’t want to brag about. We only tend to hear the glowing reports – there are no badges and certificates for the time a child was rude, or lied, or hit someone, or wouldn’t obey. I try to be realistic.
But I felt sad today that my child seemed so very different to the others, and that it was so noticed.
I felt sad because I will probably have that feeling many, many more times as he grows up. I felt sad that he is fearful and nervous because of what was done to him before he was even one year old. I can save him from being constantly compared to his schoolmates over his educational or sporting achievements, but it seems that there is always going to be something to compare, even if it is only who was bravest when the loud plane went past.