The Comparison Bitch

We know we are not supposed to compare our kids.

Point blank, we’re not supposed to compare them, be it compare them with their siblings or compare them with their peers, we know we aren’t supposed to go there.

We’ve got that stuff about “every child being unique” coming out of our brains like steam out of a roiling kettle, but seriously. Does that change anything?

Can it even change anything, when we live in a comparison-based culture, when kids are assessed within an inch of their small brains, when we are hearing about how other mothers “do it”, when even inspiration porn has reign because “if they can do it, your excuse is invalid.”

I’ve got a 5 year old child (who will be 6 soon) who isn’t fully potty-trained, who can climb hills and trees like a bad-ass, who is learning to write her name, and who can reliably say maybe 20 words. Her auditory comprehension is awesome: she knows what we say, she just doesn’t have the language (- either spoken or signed) to respond the way she wants to. She gets pissed off about that; she rages. It is not easy for her.

Meriah Nichols moles-7-2I’ve got a 7 year old child (who will be 8 soon) who is scared to climb trees, has a vocabulary of an educated adult, and appears to have a photographic memory with film: he memorizes what he sees, instantly and nearly-completely.

He struggles with making friends, having a rough timing knowing how to talk to others, he talks too loud or too much, too often, and turns softer-speaking kids off. He is sensitive and his feelings hurt often. It is not easy for him.

Meriah Nichols moles-7

On one hand with my daughter, I feel this intense pride in her physical abilities – that pride simply stems from her fierce strength and the way she has already surpassed anything I could ever do.

I’m proud that she’s the kind of girl that I would have looked at when I was a kid myself with envy-tinged admiration. “I want to be like her,” I would have thought.

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And on the other hand… how many people see this the way I do? How many people look at what she can’t do as the litmus for who she is, what she’s about?

How many people interact with my son and his prodigious vocabulary, consider that while he’s technically still a second grader, completes 3rd, 4th and 5th grade work on a daily basis? How often is this seen as a litmus for what he struggles with socially, or will simply say that his academic prowess is who he is, what he’s about? Or that his social struggles are who he is and what he’s about?

Meriah Nichols moles-3-3It’s all a bitch.

It all rubs me wrong.

It rubs me wrong on so many levels: first, because we’ve all bought into this cultural chart of what is “successful” in some way, shape or form. We’ve all got this thing ticking around in the back of our brain that sees the kid who struggles socially (like my son) and the girl with Down syndrome who can’t string a sentence together and those hard pieces for them become WHO THEY ARE. Those hard pieces for them become aspects of what they are known for. They aren’t commonly recognized as segments of the full fruit of their being, with the other pieces being universally celebrated.

Now, we are making the active choice to live in a really small community.

We made that choice partially on the knowledge that our kids can be known here. It’s so small that our kids have a better chance of not slipping through the cracks of assumptions, comparisons and cultural bias. But I still see it, and I still feel it! It’s impossible not to, through no fault of any one person – because the people in our community are outstanding! I simply see and feel it because these comparisons are a living, breathing part of our culture, and this community is still rooted in US-American culture. The school still abides by US-American public educational standards.

Meriah Nichols moles-5Comparisons are a bitch.

Comparing my kids to other kids, or my kids to one another. I know I shouldn’t do it and I don’t do it often, but it can slip in. When it does, it hurts. Because I don’t know how to help the hurt that I see my son feeling when he tries to make friends with certain kids or gets excluded on the playground. I can’t create an environment that sees his total package – his smarts as well as his friendliness – on my own. I don’t know how to help ease my daughter’s frustration with language or bathroom use in a way that eradicates her struggle, I can’t create an environment that sees her total package – her smarts and skills as a fundamental part of who she is – on my own.

Meriah Nichols moles-13-2

So I come on back here to the blog, because maybe, just maybe, writing about this can keep stirring the pot.

The more we talk about it, the more aware all of us can become about intentional cultural creation. Maybe the more aware we all are of what we do, how we think, what we say, then the more time we will take to try and get to know a child (or adult, for that matter), and try and see the pieces that we compare them to others with as merely slivers of their total pie.

Better yet, maybe we’ll stop comparing people once and for all.

 

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My Facebook is linked here, Instagram is here and Twitter right over here.

Other sites that I coordinate and that you might be interested in are A Day in the Life with Down syndrome and Two Thirds of the Planet

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
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5 Comments

  • This was a really great post. I have some really strong opinions about this topic as my own kids, while neuro-typical, all struggled in public education because, apparently I’ve raised outliers. They are absolutely fascinating successful kids with tremendous strengths that nearly got squashed in the cookie cutter mold of general education. The public education sector did not want to properly deal with their differences.Your son sounds gifted. If he his, public education will be a tough fit. Being “gifted” is a whole lot more than being smart. It’s not easy to be gifted. Not at all. You are seeing your daughter the way we should all see all children-not enough have caught up to your wise understanding of who she is. You are her warrior. We all compare. And I agree-it’s a fruitless and pointless task. Your post scratches the surface of a very complex subject. A subject that can be called many different things depending on one’s perspective. I’m talking in circles, because this topic is complex. Whatever road you travel with them..if their spirit starts to fail, please take another look at who/what is contributing to their sagging spirit. And then run the other direction (take your kids with you).

  • I am not even half way through your blog and I noticed my eyes starting to get watery. It may be because I feel identified on how you view your amazing and beautiful children, and also, I identified on how they may feel inside. You see, both my son and I were diagnosed with Asperger’s last year. It is great to finally put a name to my “weird(ness),” and to learn more about this so my son has an easier upbringing. It has been both a blessing and a challenge. I have come to the realization that we, our culture, is not infatuated with “success” and being “normal.” What is really normal? I grew up tired of always trying to fit in. I do not want the same for my children. I recognize their gifts and will do everything in my power to help them use those gifts to the maximum potential. At the end of the day, when we decide to be ourselves we make this world a better place. The problem is people do not know what to do with different or creative. Their lives are stagnant by the monotony of what the system and culture tell them how to live. Anyway. I feel I am preaching to the choir. Thanks for posting!
    “I am unique and so are you. Together we can make a great masterpiece!” – Me

  • You’re seeing it right, and it is incredibly frustrating to have to operate within a society that persists in seeing it wrong. Because you KNOW it’s wrong, and yet wrong is the world in which they must learn to function and cope.

    I go through this myself, every day, as the autistic wife of an ADHD husband and the autistic mom of an ADHD son, a teenage daughter with some autistic/ADHD traits, and two little girls who I watch constantly as they remain too young to diagnose. We’re seeing it right. Our experience, and common sense, tells us how to see it right– and to simply see it right is the most natural thing in the world. But we live in a world that sees it wrong– and that forces wrongness upon our views, forces us to question what we know is true, forces us to consider raising our kids in a way we believe is wrong to comply with a society we believe is wrong, simply so they can function in a society that isn’t going to learn a damn thing.

    In re to one of your questions: You CANNOT eradicate Moxie’s struggles. You cannot, and you should not. Those struggles are also part of Being Moxie, and it’s not for us to know what gifts having those struggles now might bring her later. Empathy?? Compassion?? Resilience?? Grit?? Patience?? I hate my autism sometimes (OK, oftentimes). But the struggles I have had with it have shaped the things that people like about me, and the things I like about myself.

    You CAN ease her frustration, at least I think you can. I don’t know if you’re a speaking Deaf person or a signing Deaf person, but I’m sure you can find the appropriate work-around, because you are obviously a very intelligent person. You say she has near-perfect auditory communication/receptive language (that is to say, she understands all that is said to her). JUST KEEP TALKING. Tell her that it’s going to take time, that it’s OK for it to take time, that she has to grow and develop and learn those things in Moxie time. Talk to her about the process– don’t sugarcoat, and don’t lie. Just tell the truth.

    That’s how I learned social skills, and frustration tolerance, and to work with the wiring the Lord gave me. It took a long time– well into my mid-to-late 20s– to bear fruit. But that’s raising kids, ANY kids.

  • Spot on, sound a bit like my two girls. I was left reeling after a school report labelled one as ‘below expectations’. Like your daughter she has DS and has exceeded all our expectations. Why we benchmark children is beyond me. I feel a blog post coming on. Thank you.

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