Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Raising Children Isn't a Race

It is so easy to get caught in the competitive trap of motherhood. It is only natural, I suppose, to compare your children to other children to see if they have achieved the milestones that they should have. It is when you start to feel either badly about it (why is my child so slow? I must be a bad parent.) or smug about it (my child is so smart; I must be a great parent!) that you run into problems.

I know, I have been guilty of this myself. For example, last year I used to take care of a friend's son on Monday afternoons. He was five years old and could buckle himself into the car with no problem. David, who is five months older than him, couldn't. This bothered me so much. Why? It is such a silly thing to get upset about. David learned how to buckle himself in when he was six. Will this have a profound effect on his life? I don't think so. At the time, however, it was a big concern to me. I was convinced the boy would be 18 and I would still have to buckle him in.

I like to think as I travel along my parenting journey, I am getting a better perspective. I'm more able to see the big picture. It isn't life or death if my child is behind, and if my child is ahead, that's great. I try not to brag about it, though, because I know that there are things that he will struggle with. For example, Isaac, who is 5, is a math whiz and can read very well, but he can't pedal a bike. For some reason, that skill completely eludes him. I would certainly like him to learn how to ride a bike, but I try not to stress about it.

Children learn at different rates. Working Mother published an article in their May 2008 issue on raising children with disabilities. This lesson is all the more important for moms of children with special needs to realize. Jonathan Kaufman, president of "DisabilityWorks", states, "Children with special needs may develop at a different pace, but this isn't a race, and you don't need to come in first." Kaufman recommends the book Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. "This story about a young lion who can't do things as quickly as other cubs often helps people come up with a new definition of their child's success."

I think that this is an important lesson for all parents, and one I'm continuing to learn. My children and I are all works in progress. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. My job, as their mom, is to help them make the most of who they are and become the people God wants them to be. Raising children isn't a race. It is a wonderful journey.

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