Friday, May 27, 2011

Each Child Is Unique

They comparing themselves among themselves are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12

It is so easy for us to look at our our children or the children of others and begin the comparison game.

Why can't you behave like so and so.
My child can't sit still like your child can.
S/he is reading already.  Why can't you?
That is what this child was doing when they were the age of your child.

It is by these early comparisons that we begin to undermine what God's word says is unwise behavior.  We teach our children to measure themselves by the measuring stick of others, not by God's measuring stick.

As an expectant mother with a very lively three year old, it is something that I will not do and something I will not tolerate others doing to my children.

Let's look at the two I am soon going to have and see why it is completely unfair to them to play the comparing game.

Addie was child number 1
  • She had two completely new parents who had no clue what they were doing. 
  • I had just lost my own mother and felt completely lost and vulnerable. 
  • Nursing just didn't happen because I was too scared to make Addie work for her food, I thought she would starve if I couldn't get it right, and the very act of nursing had too many "Mom" related memories for me because she was such a huge advocate of nursing. 
  • I felt intimidated by this little person, and, because we had my father (for the first six months) and sister (for the first 2 1/2 years) living with us, I felt like I had to really be on my game (absolutely no pressure from them, but remember what we said yesterday about first borns feeling like they can't make mistakes? Yes, I am a first born.). 
  • I was afraid of making mistakes because I didn't want to scar my daughter for life. 
  • If it did not come out of a prepackaged jar or can, it was not good enough for my child. 

Ian will be child number 2, Lord willing. 
  • He will have parents who are now on their second time around and have a better handle on parenthood than they did three years ago. 
  • His mother has developed a bit of a "mother bear" personality and is not going to be intimidated by him or the nurses at the hospital (really praying that my friend Sherri is on duty during our stay). 
  • I have read a couple of books on nursing and am more comfortable with the ideas, procedures, and techniques.  It's okay if he cries a bit at first.  It will take practice for us both. 
  • I can see that Addie survived my mothering skills, despite my lack of immediate knowledge (and without my mother to help me), and I know that God will help me with Ian the way He helped me with Addie. 
  • Lord willing, we will be making our own baby food and it's okay (after all, how did pioneer mothers feed their children before Beech Nut and Gerber?).  
Because I intend to keep Ian close by while Addie and I are having school, he just may pick things up a bit sooner.  Will that mean that Addie is slower at learning or less advanced than Ian? No.  It just means that Ian will be exposed to learning earlier than she was (no fault of Addie's).

Our children in a certain sense will have two completely different sets of parents.  Addie had first time parents (and she always will because we will experience everything with her for the first time), and Ian will have more experienced parents (although potty training a boy will be a first time experience for us).

It is also dangerous for us to compare children from different family units to each other (even if they are related) because the family units they come from are completely different. From spiritual beliefs and parenting styles and philosophies to how many parents are working and their primary influences.  And believe me, no one appreciates having their children compared to someone else's children.

Is it any wonder, then, that as children grow up they begin comparing themselves to those around them.  And then like super-spiritual parents we tell our children that God's Word says not to compare themselves.  Remember, we are the ones who taught them how to begin with. 

As Dr. Leman said yesterday, each child is unique.  God has given each person different types of intelligence.  As I mentioned yesterday, there are types of intelligence, not necessarily levels.  When I was in college we learned about about Howard Gardner's Seven Types of Intelligence.  They are as follows:
  • Linguistic- Children with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.
  • Logical-Mathematical Children with lots of logical intelligence are interested in patterns, categories and relationships. They are drawn to arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic These kids process knowledge through bodily sensations. They are often athletic, dancers or good at crafts such as sewing or woodworking.
  • Spatial- These children think in images and pictures. They may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw puzzles, or spend free time drawing, building with Legos or daydreaming.
  • Musical- Musical children are always singing or drumming to themselves. They are usually quite aware of sounds others may miss. These kids are often discriminating listeners.
  • Interpersonal- Children who are leaders among their peers, who are good at communicating and who seem to understand others' feelings and motives possess interpersonal intelligence.
  • Intrapersonal- These children may be shy. They are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.
(copied from http://professorlamp.com/ed/TAG/7_Intelligences.html)

I cannot tell you how many times I had to sit with parents during parent conferences and explain that schools, unfortunately, only grade the linguistic and logical/mathematics intelligences but leave out the many other intelligences that children have.  I have had students (4th and 5th grade) who did not do well on tests and really did not enjoy school itself, but could take apart a mechanical alarm clock or toaster and put it back together in working order.  I know of other children who play on baseball all-star teams, can paint, draw, and take photographs like a professional, have surpassed their own music teachers, know how to empathize with others, and know themselves better than anyone else does. 

When we compare one child who excels in one area of intelligence to a child who excels in another area, we are literally comparing apples to oranges. 

As women, we also need to stop comparing ourselves to each other.  Yes, learning from one another is great, but when we start comparing ourselves, our looks, our abilities, our children, our husbands, our situations, or whatever the case may be, we are doing wrong, and we are teaching our children to do the same. 

We are all unique.  Let us rejoice and relish in that today.

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