Thursday, December 08, 2005

Competitive parenting rant

My DH had a brother over for an early lunch yesterday while I was out with the kids... And somehow (probably thanks to mini underwear lying somewhere on our floor!LOL) the subject got to potty training. Our youngest is currently potty training (he will be three in January. My husband had the experience that I have had 1,000 times... The brother started talking about how his son was potty trained before two. Brothers, have you been dragged into the world of competitive parenting too?????

I feel like Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman's characters in Meet the Fockers... You know the part where they are showing the new in-laws the wall with all the mementos on it? When did raising children become a contest? I hate to be the one to constantly restate the obvious... But all children go through different stages of development at different times. There is no better or worse.

I want to get away from this false sense of accomplishment that some people have about these things. I would argue that kids are suffering from it. No child should be pushed to do something before they are ready just so the parent can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Take the example of potty training. Children are ready to learn bladder and bowel control at different ages, the sensation and the muscle control are a developmental stage. Now I know someone out there has done the potty training a 6 month old thing... And I believe you, but you have really trained yourself to respond to your child’s subtle signals and cues. That aside, kids will simply reach an age where the signs tell you they have reached that stage. No amount of reward or punishment will help them to get there sooner. And you will only make yourself and your child miserable trying to force it. I would say it is right up there with tying to get your pet fish to sit up and beg. If your child potty trained at 1 1/2... (I know I'm going to ruffle some feathers here) Don't pat yourself on the back, they were just ready.

And starting solids at an early age is another one (which you will see reversed to starting solids late in some groups where BFing advocacy is big). Once again, either your child is ready to eat and digest solids or not. You can't force it early because the tongue thrust reflex and the digestive system readiness are something you can't control. Nor should you. I know baby dishes and spoons are cute, but starting solids will not give your child more nutrition, help her sleep through the night or make her gain more weight. And yet this is another one I hear women comparing all the time...

And my favorite and the one that I am most likely to snap if someone tells me about it... Sleeping through the night. Yeah, it really irks me to hear,"Yeah, Mahmoud slept through the might ever since I brought him home from the hospital, masha'Allah!". No, sorry Ferber and every other scheduling nut job out there... The only thing a little baby who is "sleeping through the night" is doing is learning that no one is coming to get them, so there is no reason to cry. Sad and once again some people get all mad when I make that analogy, but that is the fact. And even an older child who does sleep for a longer stretch probably only sleeps for 6 hours or so. Sleeping though the night just happens, it is a developmental stage. Once again, sorry folks... Not a mark of superior parenting.

And finally... Big babies. I am just shy of five feet tall... and for many years hovered around 100lbs. My husband is a bigger guy, and he was athletic in his youth. We have had both small and big children. My middle one, big baby. My first and third were both small. That's genetics kids. And the most ferocious nurser of them all was the smallest. Yeah, go figure. So, when people praised me for my middle son's size... I was always a little irritated. I was happy he was a big boy, masha'Allah, but I never thought I had anything to do with it. Besides, my first child elicited the opposite response since she was small, so maybe I was a little jaded. PLEASE, don't stress about your child's size!!! And this is one even Drs put you in the competition on, "Yes Ms Abdelmalik your son is doing well, he is on the 90th percentile! Keep up the good work!" or "Ms Abdulrahman... I think you should consider supplementing your son's diet with formula, he is only in the 10th percentile." Hmmm, did a Dr ever look at the whole thing and just say, must be this child's growth pattern??? How I would LOVE to show some of the people who thought I was starving my daughter today now that she is a normal height.

Now I know that everyone has their own style parenting... And I am willing to allow for that. But sisters, and apparently brothers too... Can we please stop comparing our children on these archaic and useless things? Maybe you should think of it like this... Would you dare to look at another person's child and boldly proclaim that your parenting was obviously superior due to the perfection of your child's nose? Yes, it is the same. Allah made all of us differently, with little internal clocks running at different paces. No parent is better than another because their child is taller, potty trained earlier, slept through the night from day one and ate solids foods from birth. Give your child space to mature at their own pace. If you want to rush something's development go plant a garden and punish the tomatoes for not ripening fast enough.


Surviving said...

This is definately something that has bothered me. Both of my kids were preemies so I have had to deal with people who think I am doing something wrong because they don't do or aren't the size others think they should be. I always ended up feeling like I had to explain to everyone that they were early and very small as a result.

Um Mahtab said...

I loved this, so direct and awesome. I have to deal with these stupid comments because my newborn girl is small. People should really get over themselves.

la-la po said...

Al salam alaikum-

You hit the nail on the head. There's also the 'your baby's so FAT!'Arrrghh. About the potty-training thing...I think this is a big thing for Arabs. Alhamdulillah my dh isn't too much into this. I'm not Arab so I'm going to do what works best for us, and disregard what others think.

P.S. Don't even get me started on nursing throughout pregnancy, or nursing till 2 years or beyond.

Um Ibrahim said...

I agree with you 100%! it's hard though.. no matter how much you say you don't care about other children the same age as your children, ultimately you can't help but compare. Even though you know every child is different. But i did just keep it to myself.

When my neighbor's son, same age, was sitting up before my son, i started encouraging him more and more to strengthen his back muscles by giving him more tummy time, and by the next week or two (the next mother's group meeting) he was sitting up.

camilla said...

This post is really enlightening. I have my own questions about my child's development. Doctor says she is on the small size and I get all stressed when she is not drinking milk (only when she is asleep). I realised that I can never force it on her. As long as something is going down her mouth, I am happy now. There is another thing I worry. When I should take my child to any classes be it activity or music and movements? My daughter is in her 18 months and she is picking up words fast. But I wonder will I be pushing her too much if I bring her for classes? Pls advise mothers. Thanks

Umm J. said...

Assalaamu 'alaikum.

I LOVE this post - so.. sooo true.

I TOTALLY agre with you on this one! I've always had comments about my son - especially since he was not mobile until 18 months due to rickets. Now I get "he's so small for a 2 year old" - yeah, cos he had rickets... duh! argh..

Now it's "does he talk?" Of course he does (mashaa`Allaah), he just chooses to be reserved infront of strangers. Is that a problem?!

**end of rant!**

I just hate having to explain myself - I don't feel I need to.

Umhakima said...

Ameen, sis! You have posted on one of, if not THE, biggest pet peeve I have. I had the "fat" baby problem! well, my smallest child weighed 9'4 and my largest weighed 10'8 at birth, Mashallah, so yes, they were chubby babies. all 3 are now perfectly normal, alhamdililah. people just worry too much! and don't even start me on potty training! lol my youngest turned 2 at the end of July and I all hear is, OH, she is still in diapers???? lol children are individuals, young individuals!