Children are individual people. Right from before they are born, each and every children is a unique, individual person. Though hard to imagine when they are so small, there is already a pre-determined personality flourishing. When they walk, talk, toilet train, count, repeat the alphabet, do algebra, drive a car – each and every one of these things is based on their life factors. Not their sisters or brothers, not their parents, not their cousins or their friends. Theirs.
There is a real nature of competition amongst parents. A lot of what we do with children is clouded by comparisons – is your child sitting yet? Is he sleeping through the night yet? Is she sitting yet? One of the hardest obstacles to overcome in parenting is learning to sift past this, and not regard your child as superior or inferior to another. Because, even within families, all children are different. All. Children. Are. Different.
Consider this – imagine your child sitting on, say, a large concrete floor. On a cushion, if you prefer your child to have a comfy bottom. This, ladies and gentlemen, is your child. Hello, child! Now, imagine a circle drawn around your child. This is his immediate environment. The day he was born. His gender. His name. Now, draw a slightly larger circle around that. This one is his situation in life – are his parents together or divorced? What is his place in the family? Is he the oldest child, or is he third in a family of twelve kids? Does he live with grandparents, cousins, a family friend? And again, another circle – his place in the world. Where does he live? Does he live in an inner-city apartment? Or on a farm? Are his parents extremely well off, or struggling to make ends meet? Are his parents educated? Do his parents both work, or does one parent stay at home? Another circle – the greater environment around him – what is the country like in which he lives? America? The United Kingdom? New Zealand? And, more locally, does he live in a city wrought with natural disasters? Or, a town in which it always rains? You can keep going with this, each circle representing a slightly larger environmental factor that will all effect who this person is, and who he is destined to become.
And, that doesn’t even begin to touch on the neurological side of things – how his brain works, whether his personality is naturally shy, or extroverted. Whether he has a passion for learning, or whether he is content to sit back and watch the world around him.
And now, if your child has a sibling, sit them on another cushion alongside him. If you draw the same circles but relevant to her situation, you may be amazed to discover that her circles are different to his. As are yours. And every other person in the world.
I have three children – they are all siblings, they have the same parents, the same family. Yet they are all completely different children, hitting the same milestones at different times. But that’s ok. In fact, we welcome it. The world would be a sad and dreary place if all people reached the same stages at the same times. Imagine a world where, say, on your 21st birthday, you immediately graduate from University. And, on your 30th birthday, you have your first child. Everyone does. Because, that’s what you do.
I get exhausted hearing people comparing children to others, without considering all of the other factors. My child will be different to yours, because his life is different to yours. Just as I am different to you. Next time you are with a group of children, take a moment to think about what makes them who they are – and why that makes them the coolest kid on the planet. Because every kid is.