It starts with innocent childhood milestones. Does your kid sit up? Does s/he crawl? How many teeth does s/he have? Oh, mine is a fast learner. My baby has 16 teeth. Mine walks unsupported at 8 months, what does your kid do?
Don't they sound familiar? That is because at some point each parent has compared their kid to another of the same age. Are they slow? Are they lacking skills? Is this how it is supposed to be? Probably, the parents fear if or not their kids are developing the way they should.
Even long after they are convinced that everything is fine with the kids, they do not stop comparing. Even if the parent doesn't do it, someone else is always ready to strike up a match. Yesterday, a friend pinged me for a heart to heart, where comparison was discussed.
Every child, every individual is different. I have realised that over and over again in the past year. A lot of my friends had babies almost the same time that I had mine with some weeks here and there. And no two of them had the same developmental path. To say, Aarnavi has been a classic example of baby center emails. Her milestones were bang on. Every week I used to be surprised to read emails that looked like they were custom-made for Aarnavi. Yes, in a certain manner, life was easy for me. I did not have to obsess over if this was normal or that was not normal. In no way does it mean that my child is perfect or even that the others are below par. The faster parents learn to embrace their child's every aspect, whether good or bad, the better for the child.
The reason why I start with infancy milestones is because everything starts right there. The need to compare children with one another just keeps growing and stems well into their formative years. Comparing is unfair. Comparing can hurt. And comparing can result in low self esteem / bloated ego in kids, depending on which side the kid falls. No one deserves to be compared.
I know it because I have grown up with my share of being compared to others with my part of the balance always on the sad side. I know how it feels to be constantly measured by a yardstick and not living up to the standards. I have lived at the receiving end of not being perfect compared to others. Trying to be like someone else when you cannot be is an insurmountable task. Hence, the frustration of not being able to, despite trying hard is unimaginable.
From physical attributes like height and weight, to grades in school/ college, to finer skills like cooking. I have been, and even today am, compared. Today, it doesn't matter much to me. I do what pleases me and such comments pass by without affecting me. But it was not so earlier. Every comment was a stab. Every put down felt like being stomped upon. Relatives are meant to do it. One of my aunts has never passed an opportunity to look down upon me in some way or the other. Her child has always been superior. I hated having to visit them or having them over. I always wished we could avoid them, but never could as they are close relatives. Sadly, my parents didn't react much to it. They have also at times compared me with V, which of course I hated and made me sad. I never thought of complaining for the fear of others thinking I was all sour grapes.
Comparing makes one angry and rebellious or vain and egotistic, again depending on where s/he stands. That anger and rebellion can go in two extreme ways. One it can give you the will and strength to prove everyone wrong and overcome all obstacles. For others, like me, will learn to give up, sometimes too easily. It is a major bog to ones self esteem. Imagine being reminded repeatedly of others' achievements and lack of yours. Unfortunately, this tendency to give up early and easily stays well into your life. (To give up giving up requires a lot lot more hard work). Till date I haven't been able to get rid of my habit. I won't even give it a try.
I can explain why it feels better to abandon the battle. Basically, it is a battle. You may have heard of the saying "Try but don't cry" or even "You shouldn't stop trying until you get there." There is also "Barking up the wrong tree." and "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." I believe in the latter. It is so much easier to say "No I cannot do it." than try and fail and be reminded about it, humiliated and written off forever. There is no appreciation for having tried hard despite not wanting to/ inability to do so. Making someone understand about your abilities and inabilities is not worth your time. It is best to avoid such comments and shut them out.
Each one has a different design. If one can do something well, other might just not be able to wrap it around his head. It doesn't mean one is superior and other is useless. Again, I say that comparing is unfair. It is wrong to pit one individual against another. For a child growing up constantly being compared, it causes immense stress and harsh mental effects. (I have not researched on any, but it is my experience). It stumps free and healthy growth.
Why as parents do we want to be a cause of mental abuse to kids. Why does looking down at someone else so inviting? What kind of thrill we derive out of it? I have friends who compare their kids with Aarnavi, saying she is this tall, my kid isn't, or when did she start eating solids, mine is this older than yours and still refuses to. I take the opportunity to tell them that their kid might not be ready for it, or maybe they haven't yet experienced the growth spurt and they should wait for it. I have problems with my kid too, and I discuss them when I feel the need to/ when I feel something might not be right. But instead of turning a discussion into a raving comparing debate, I try to make it more into how to deal with it session.
Comparisons creep in mind. Call it maternal instinct or basic human nature. It is there. It is important to nip it in the bud and make conscious effort not to do it. If someone else does it, telling them right in the beginning should avoid further attacks.
I do not know how what skills my child has. Whether she'll be good in studies, or she'll prefer sports over fashion. I do not know. But one thing I know for sure is I will not be comparing her with peers. I will not stunt her mental growth by telling her she is too stupid to do something. I do not think it is the way to get the best out of someone. It certainly did not work for me.