It might be taboo, you might swear you don’t do it and shake your head when other people do. But don’t lie. You do it, too. I’m going to come right out and say it. I compare my kids.
Yep. I do. I compare them to each other. I compare them to the babies in my new mom classes, I compare them to my friends’ kids, I compare them to stories of kids on the blogs I read. And I’ve come to a less-than-startling conclusion: they’re just fine.
Comparisons aren’t always the awful thing they’re made out to be. It’s how your mind is made to work. You see two things, your mind comes up with ways in which those two things are similar to and different from one another. Your brain categorizes, compares, and contrasts. Noticing a similarity or difference between your own two kids or between your son and the kid on the playground is not an inherently negative thing to do. The problem is when you go assigning a qualitative judgment to that comparison, when there shouldn’t be one. There’s a difference between saying “huh, that eight-month-old is crawling, my nine-month-old isn’t” and “oh dear god, my kid is so horribly behind on gross motor, there go my dreams of having an Olympic athlete for a son.” [OK, so there are a number of things wrong with that last statement, but that’s for another time.] I even think some comparisons can be useful. It’s good to know what their age-mates are up to, so you can at least have a small amount of reassurance that things are fine, or even some basis for asking your pediatrician if she thinks it’s OK that your kid hasn’t mastered the pincer grasp yet.
I think having twins is a big in-your-face lesson in the “normal range of development.” Here you have two little people, who spent the same amount of time in my belly, who have had as close to the same environment as you can get, and they’re as different as can be on lots of things.
For the first six months, Daniel was “ahead” of his sister, especially in gross motor things. Rebecca would look like she was just about to do something for the longest time, as though she’d finally get the upper hand, and then one day Daniel would just up and do it. He totally leapfrogged her. It was that way with rolling over, especially, and he was the first one to be interested in sitting up unassisted. Rebecca was still refusing to bend in the middle. I’d get worried, this apparent advantage would only reinforce my latent concerns that Rebecca was somehow “more” preemie than Daniel (in truth, she had a terribly important extra 45 seconds in utero, which I’m sure made a huge difference), because she was always so very small.
Yeah, and then she totally leapfrogged him. Once she figured out how to bend in half and start sitting, she was much more steady than Daniel. And she has been crawling faster than a bat out of hell for about two months, while Daniel still mostly “swims” on the floor and is only just starting to figure out that hands plus knees can equal purposeful forward movement. As soon as I wonder if one is doing better than the other on language development, the “behind” one will come up with a whole new set of sounds to make.
I’m not saying I never worry, never watch in a combination of amazement and embarrassment when another kid is crawling at 6.5 months while my 10.5-month-old is just barely figuring it out. But in general, I think this is one of the areas in which having twins has helped me be more laid-back as a first-time-mom than I might have otherwise been. Noticing the difference between the two of them has made me more relaxed about any differences between my kid and someone else’s. Noticing the differences between other people’s twins has made me less paranoid about my own.
My kids are probably a little ahead of the average on some things, a little behind on others. That’s why it’s a range, that’s why the bell curve exists. A late walker doesn’t guarantee a life of awkwardness any more than an early talker guarantees brilliance. Anyways, we all know my kids are going to be brilliant, no matter when they start talking, right?