Kid Comparisons, I’m Trying to Stop by Stacey Honowitz
Well, almost two weeks of school have gone by, and its time for an open house. Last night, I (not we, as my x husband could not break himself away from something VERY important) went to the school after work to meet the other parents in my daughter”s class, as well as to hear the teachers speak about what the kids will be doing for the next year. I ran into the classroom and was late, as I had to race home from work, walk the dog, make dinner and then drop my daughter off at my parents. All the other parents were sitting in a circle listening intently to the teacher talk about the expectations that she had for the kids. I plopped myself into one of those teeny weeny little chairs, threw my purse on the floor, and tried to get in on the conversation. I had a good chuckle when the teacher said that all the kids listen, and she only has to tell them once to do something. I thought “am I sitting in the right class?” I tried to imagine the teacher telling my daughter to do something, and my daughter responding the same way as she does to me.. “Na, that’s too boring, I want to do something else,”
As I was sitting in this circle trying to take in all the information about “Junior Kindergarten” I found myself doing what I should not be doing, comparing my kid to everyone elses kid. I size up people for a living. As a trial lawyer for almost 25 years, it just comes natural to try and figure out what the “deal” is with certain people. So, instead of paying attention to the teacher (which is what I tell my daughter to do everyday) I spent this open house, checking out all the parents, and then worse, looking to see what their kids work was like which was displayed all over the walls of the classroom.
I was introduced to everyone when I walked in the door as “so and sos mother”, and everyone gave me the cursory nod. I noticed that alot of the parents knew each other from previous years at the school (my first) and I also noticed that they seem to have their own little side conversations going. I watched them yuck it up about things I knew nothing about. I heard them making plans for play dates and lunches, and I saw them give me the once over almost like I was an intruder into their little world. I have to say for one split second that I, as the mother felt left out, so you can imagine what a little kid must feel like. When the teacher asked if any of the parents had anything special that they could bring to the classroom to teach the kids, one mother said yes. She said that she loves to bake and could teach the kids. She asked again, ” does anyone else have a special job they could talk about, or skill to teach the kids?”. This time I said, “well, I supervise the sex crimes unit, I have written two books, and I lecture all over to schools, parents and kids about “good touches and bad touches”. I also teach the kids how important it is to tell someone if they feel uncomfortable.” It was as if I did not even exist, my statements just went right over everyone’s head. I thought that they would be excited to have someone else discuss this issue with the kids, but no. So, now that my feelings were hurt, I decided it was time for me to see what their kids were all about. The teacher started to show us different areas in the classroom, and we got to see the projects that the children had been doing. We saw artwork, letters, and drawings. I felt the need to look very closely at everyone else’s work and see how it compares to my kid’s work. I don’t know what came over me. Why was it so important that my daughter’s work be better that the others? Why did I feel the need to put pressure on myself and her? I swore that I was just going to look at her pictures and say “she’s doing great”. I found myself getting upset because her “artwork” wasn’t Picasso, and that some of the other kids really were much better than her. Now, I found myself mad at the kids and their parents. What was coming over me? I had that instant urge to go home and enroll her in an art class, and to order her the “best” smock money could buy. I must have had a dazed look on my face when the teacher walked over. She saw me staring at a picture and cocking my head to one side in confusion. I locked eyes with her, and without even uttering a word she could knew what I was thinking. “Listen, so she’s not the best artist” as if I could not see that myself. She has skills that other kids don’t have (like the ability to tell me that time out is not good for her). I know what my kid is capable of doing, I know that she does excel in other things. I know that the worst thing for me to do is to compare her to other kids. I think its just natural. You want them to be the best in whatever they do. but its got to be at their pace. I don’t want to hear my own voice say, “why is her’s better than yours?” The answer is ” just because” There is no specific reason, I figured that out after I came home and woke her up so she could paint me some pictures (just kidding). I can tell you that every drawing she does for me will be a Picasso.