Who’s Better, Who’s Best

And so it begins. The dark side of parenting comes out and I was taken aback at my reaction.  A friend of mine shared with me a beautiful audio recording of her daughter reciting the alphabet.  It was the cutest thing ever and I enjoyed.  Her daughter is 3 months older and then I started to think to myself, my son is hardly saying any words.  I mean kids change fast, but he only has 3 months before he should be saying his ABC’s as well.  What if he doesn’t?  Am I bad parent? Is my kid not going to be very smart?

And it’s happened other times as well. When he shows interest in a particular thing, my mind starts to race.  He likes playing drums, he’s not even 2, what if he’s going to be this amazing drummer?  How awesome would that be?  Hey there is this kid on YouTube the same age as my son playing the drums and he is much better than my son.  Crap my son isn’t special!

Dhyan_hatSo I confess my mind has gone to such places, but before you start to lecture me I just want you to know that my anxiety passed as quickly as it came, but it makes you think why one would have such a reaction? Of course it’s a common stereotype, that parent living out their dreams through their child.  Or perhaps just as common, are the parents using their kid as a pawn to compete with other parents to show each other up to determine who is the better parent, because they have the better kid?  So I had to seriously contemplate whether I was this type of parent.  Where were these feelings of anxiety and competitiveness coming from?  Why is it important to me that my son be extraordinary in some way?

So dismissing the idea that I might be a crazy person I thought about this sort of biological reaction I had when my son was born,  for him to grow and get stronger. While it is important to enjoy the moment, I think it’s natural for a parent to want to see this growth in their child.  Self-reliance is ultimately our goal, even if at the same time it sucks so bad when they don’t need us anymore.  There are a lot of people in this world and so it seems also reasonable that we would have this drive for our children to be extraordinary at some particular thing or to have a natural talent that drives them in a particular direction.   It can be the easy ticket to self-reliance.  Rich or poor when they have some inherent gift to fall back on, it’s a feeling of security as a parent.  You may have heard the stereotype before that all Indian parents want their kids to become doctors.  A well deserved stereotype actually.  My uncle was one of those parents who wanted their children to become doctors.  The reason he gave for this was that doctors are never unemployed, they are always needed and thus his children are always assured in an income.  Being originally from India where there was no social safety net, where poverty was and still is fairly high, I can understand such a philosophy.  They were however well off and my cousins very well educated, they would be successful in anything they chose.  But as I see the places my own mind goes I understand the obsessive Indian parent constantly pushing their children towards medical school.  I of course never would force my own child into anything in particular, because in the end I can’t ignore the fact that my child is an autonomous being who needs to be free to make decisions for his self.

In the end, the right answer just seems to be to just remember to love, to encourage, and to teach them to learn well, wherever their interests lie. Teach them the value of determination, teach them the value of caring about what you are doing and taking pride in your own work.  Whether my son is extraordinary or not, he will always be extraordinary to me and that’s a gift in of itself.  I think it’s the hardest thing to know as a parent.  How do you make your child self-reliant?  There are so many avenues to that destination it’s easy to get lost.  Perhaps the best I can do is to trust in myself and my own self-reliance to do well in the moment and stop trying to worry and predict the future.

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10 thoughts on “Who’s Better, Who’s Best

  1. I remember when Kristin was a toddler. She was almost 4 before she started putting full sentences together. I got “feedback” from other “experts” outside my own family, who informed me that my daughter was “slow” because she was still talking baby talk, and I was encouraging her. Interestingly enough, those very “experts” were stunned to find out that my daughter was tested at age five with an IQ of 157, and by 1st grade she was in classes for gifted and talented students. She remained in advanced classes throughout her school years.

    Sometimes it’s hard to block out the voices, including our own. As a new mother, I worried that I wasn’t measuring up, not because I was comparing Kristin with other children, but because others were measuring her by their own children’s advancements early on. Every child is different and unique.

    Yes, the best you can do is to trust in yourself and your own self-reliance to do well in the moment and stop trying to worry and predict the future. You clearly are providing the best environment to nurture that little brain. I’ve no doubt he will turn out as brilliant and loving as his parents.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I honestly don’t even feel like Dhyan is really behind, because he seems to understand a wide range of vocabulary in two languages even if he can’t speak as much yet. It’s just that I have this initial reaction that’s like a panic that he’s not extraordinary enough when somebody else’s kid is doing something faster. It’s really weird because that’s really not the person I am. lol These kids they just change you in unexpected ways. lol

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    1. That’s a great point John. I would certainly agree that could heighten the anxiety. While I think it’s natural to want your child to want that feeling of security that your child will be successfully self-reliant, and natural to compare within your community, the global community we now face gives us a much wider range for comparison. I think comparing can be a helpful start to something, but it’s easy to let it get excessive and thus unhealthy. Like all the bad news you can hear about everyday in this world, our brains just aren’t built to process that input. It takes a lot of discipline and self-awareness and even then it’s hard sometimes. Now that the world has opened up, it can be a mosaic of wonder, or a quagmire. It’s a fun dichotomy. lol

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  2. I think you summed it well in that last paragraph. All you can do is lead by example. Teach them right from wrong. Show them how to use their brains to solve problems. Love them. Encourage them (when needed.) Advise them (again when needed.) There is also the issue of discouraging bad behavior, but I can’t really advise anyone on that, as there are many landmines in that discussion.

    You nailed it with “my child is an autonomous being who needs to be free to make decisions for his self” If you try to push them, they will resent that. I think the key is to encourage their interests, and interests will change with time (sometimes daily lol), so be patient.

    Oh, and set your mold (as much as that is possible) before they become teens, if you have failed to do so by then it is too late.

    Finally I believe your crazy is of the mild version, as in within normal limits 🙂

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    1. Somebody just liked this post, so I revisited it and have no idea why I missed this comment SD. Sorry! Thank you for the input. I agree that I am probably not terribly crazy, but it’s just the reaction in general that caught me off guard. Before this I would have said…I’m not going to be one of those parents…it’s not even going to cross your mind…but it does, and so I wanted to explore what the source might be for such thoughts.

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  3. From one father of a now married 21-year old daughter and a 14-yr old son, I can completely relate Swarn to all your hopes for and anxieties over your child(ren). 🙂

    I could easily write 3-4 blog posts on this subject and how “the best-laid plans of mice and men [or Fathers] often go awry” and it all begins with your children’s mother and your “fluid” growing, morphing relationship with her during your children’s first 18-years! But I’ll spare you Swarn. LOL 😉

    From my own experience as a father, I’d concern myself with guiding them to be VERY well-rounded in many areas, not just an occupation, with an over all WORLD mentality… this would also include thorough education and training of how to farm your own food/garden, how to survive in the wild — i.e. without modern luxuries! — and how to build, maintain, and repair things/equipment/tools yourself. Keeping all those things relatively simple will most definitely serve them well if or when civilization(s) collapse, like history shows time and time again. But these are just my humble 2-cents from one father to another.

    Knowing what I know now about you Swarn and your personality, I’m pretty certain all of your children will/would be just fine! You’re probably an excellent father. 😉

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Professor, and pardon me for the delayed response. With the exception of being able to show him how to fix things around the house, I think I can at least give him a fairly well rounded education. Of course I can at least teach him the value of those things, and who knows maybe teaching him will inspire me to be more handy myself. I have certainly become more well rounded in my knowledge than I was in university and certainly appreciate how much it has benefitted my life. I think that is the way to go. But I also don’t want to miss out on natural tendencies and talents and push those aside in favor of other things that he might have a real passion for, because I know how important these passions are in our lives when everything else goes astray. And even such passions don’t come to fruition without nurturing and a lot of hard work. As I had mentioned to others on facebook and here, the real surprise for me has been the emotional overtaking the intellectual without expecting it. You often feel like knowledge is a way to overrun these anxieties and fears, but sometimes there jump to the fore of your mind and so I wanted to explore where these things come from, because I do believe that our emotions and fears come there for a reason that had some sort of advantage to our evolutionary past.

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