Ahead and behind

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Categories Development, Infants, Mommy Issues

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?

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8 thoughts on “Ahead and behind”

  1. Too true! My close friend was always so nervous about her son’s lack of verbal skills. Then, one day he just started talking like crazy & never stopped. All babies are on their own time table!

    Of course, we all have our information sources (relatives, co-workers, other bloggers) giving conflicting information, so I’m sure it gets confusing after a while!
    :) Becky
    http://www.stinkylemsky.typepad.com/

  2. LOL I was happily reading along and then realized that I was comparing *my* kid to yours while reading this *blush* (he’s just starting to scoot – not quite crawl – around the floor). As always, very entertained by your post.

    You got me curious about blogging…so I started my own. Check it out! http://zimmerzoo.wordpress.com

  3. Hehe. I compare my kids all the time. Danny crawled months before Abigail (and will walk first too) so it was hard not to. I wonder what Abigail will do better than him? I think I just accept my comparing and move on….it’s not like I have a “bad” one and a “good” one. Although today….well, that’s another post.

  4. Having twins taught me a whole bunch in regard to what comes naturally in people — just about everything! — and what doesn’t (not much). In a way, that’s been a comfort for my mothering skills to relax just a tad.

  5. I agree that having two kids to compare and contrast is like having a control group! Our pediatrician actually encouraged me to compare them for different developmental milestones.

    A lot of the comparison’s we do now are all about realizing the cool individual stuff about each of them. But man was it annoying to be asked which one was the “good” one, and which was the “bad!”

  6. With identical twins it makes comparisons that more more easy. Not only do you have two people who were born at the same time, live in the same environment but they also are made up of the same exact genetic material and yet they can do things completely differently! My girls have always leap frogged each other. One thing that I’ve seen is that Hailey learns to do things quickly but takes awhile to master them while Hannah takes longer but masters her skill more quickly.

  7. I love it! You always write excellent posts. The leapfrogging comment is perfect and exactly what happens in our home too. I have 5.5 month b/g twins and it is so amazing to see one try and try for a few weeks, then the other one just up and does it. Been that way with eating, sleeping, sounds, rolling, sitting (well, almost sitting-my son won’t ‘bend in the middle’ either:)
    Also, I agree with the more relaxed comment too. Watching both babies reach their milestones at different times has taken the pressure off of “Ack, when will this happen?” to “Wow, this one is doing this already and that one will be doing it soon.” It is almost like we get a sneak peek because we (multiple mamas) get to see everything twice (or thrice:).
    Trina

  8. Sheena my ID girls are the exact same way, too funny!
    Anyway, the thing that “gets my goat” is when OTHER people compare my twins with each other. My mom inparticular always tries to tell ME about MY kids, ugh! Sorry I guess that’s a little OT.

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