We’ve all been there. You’re at the park, quietly watching your little while they play calmly in the sandbox with a broken shovel and a pine cone. From the corner of your eye, you see her approach, her seasonally appropriate attire clean and cute, her hair in a suspiciously full, yet contained top knot. In a moment of panic, you look down at your own outfit, and discover a dried out macaroni noodle stuck to your sweater in the exact location of your nipple. You manage to remove it just before she gets there, and breathe a temporary sigh of relief, but dread washes over you as you see the bright yellow semi-circle the noodle has left behind, creating a rather convincing “friendly cyclops” effect on your right boob.
She delicately arranges herself on the edge of the sandbox, reusable coffee cup in one manicured hand, eco-friendly, gender neutral, Montessori toy in the other. And then, as if coming straight from a Hannah Andersson magazine shoot, in toddles the perfect toddler. This toddler is wearing matching everything, and unlike your child, they don’t have walrus-like tusks of snot hanging off their face. They enter the sandbox, and in the distance you hear the faint, but distinct, sound of bells signaling the start of round one.
For a few seconds, nothing happens, and you think “Maybe this is the nanny? Oh please be the nanny…” But this thought is interrupted by the seemingly innocent complement/question one-two punch, “She is so cute! How old is she?” And it begins. For those of you who don’t yet have kids, this seems so harmless. “She’s just being nice!” you may say. But really, like a raptor testing the fence, she’s just found her way in. “She’s 15 months,” you reply. And then because you don’t want to come off like the ogre you feel like, you reply with “I love your daughter’s shoes. How old is she?” Here’s where it gets serious. Secretly you are hoping and praying her kid is at least 6 months older. Look at the way she scoops the sand, and dumps it in to the bucket with such accuracy! And did she just speak in full sentences? She has to be at least 22 months. “My little angel is 14 months!” she says, confirming your worst fears.
From here it gets ugly quick. You discover that her little princess started sleeping through the night at 2 months, and continues to do so, in her own bed. She sat up at 3 months. She crawled at 5 months. She walked at 8 months. She is basically potty trained. She speaks three languages, not including sign language, which she can also do comfortably. It is after finding out she saved the preschool hamster by giving it the Heimlich that you look over at your own offspring, and discover they are currently chewing on a sand-covered apple core they’ve just unearthed.
Before you get too down on yourself, let’s pump the brakes on this train wreck and put things in perspective. It’s horribly cliché to say “every baby is different,” but it’s the most simple way to put something that is, quite simply, the truth.
I find myself getting caught up in this nonsense still, when some over-achieving wonder-tot spits some crazy toddler knowledge at Baby 1.0 and me. Just this weekend, we shared the sandbox with an 18 month old who could speak in full sentences (we actually witnessed it), and according to his mom, could read. Baby 1.0 doesn’t even really have a word yet, and while she knows what the word “nose” is, she can actually only locate it on my face maybe 60% of the time (for the record, my nose is in the standard location, midway between both ears, on the front of my face). But instead of (me) pooping in the sandbox and going home and ordering the entire Baby Einstein series off Amazon in a panic, which I considered, my husband and I just shrugged and told ourselves, “Every baby is different. She will get there.”
These comparisons are often not malicious, as I too, find myself wondering how Baby 1.0 stacks up against the average toddler. But sometimes they sure can feel that way. My guess is I’m not alone in feeling judged, or in all honesty, judging every once in a while (every day). Our babies are like our own little 4H projects, and just like when the judge comes to your stall and points out your cow has a googly eye, you feel like you need to compensate and tell him all about how, googly eye and all, your magnificent cow is able to sweep the barn if you attach the special sweeping mitts you made to her feet. Maybe this hasn’t happened to anybody else, but you get the point. Every baby has their downfalls, but I’ll be damned if there aren’t 10 things that make up for that downfall.
I think for my own sanity, I need to replace the question “is my baby is better?” with the acknowledgement that “every baby is different” more readily. I should make it my mantra, and carry it with me, probably for the rest of my life. I can only imagine these comparisons continue, in some degree, forever.