Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Charts, Lists and Smug Mummy

Yesterday I came across a list on facebook of 50 things children should have done before they are aged 12. It was full of fun outdoor, but simple, activities like skimming stones, building a den, climbing a tree and rolling down a hill. And it made me feel oh so good! My boys have done most of those activities already and I could feel that "Smug Mummy, I've got it right" feeling creeping up on me. You know, the kind of feeling that lurks if yours is the baby that sleeps all night or you have children who eat everything put in front of them. Thankfully my boys keep me humble most of the time though, and before Smug Mummy could take up residence in my brain, they were punching each other and screaming nasty insults to each other.

It started a train of thoughts in my mind though about those kinds of lists. Sometimes they make you feel like the best mother in the world, but sometimes they leave a nasty taste in your mouth and you have to resist the temptation to google all those milestones your child has not achieved and what syndrome they might consequently have. I know that I have given into that temptation far too many times and have convinced myself that my boys have all kinds of ridiculous syndromes. Surely I'm not the only one... I have slowly learnt to avoid those lists.

Every child is unique. Every child is beautiful in his or her own way. There is no such thing as a 'textbook' baby or child. Usually we say 'textbook' when we mean 'easy'. Does that mean the more difficult children are not 'textbook', 'normal' or acceptable? Does it mean that our child is deficient in some way if a chart says he should be able to tie his own shoelaces by the age of 7? Does it mean our child is abnormal if they are still in nappies at 3 when all their friends were potty trained by 18 months (and I have to say I CANNOT stand the potty training race)? What does it say about our parenting? Are we not pushy enough? Too pushy?

These lists and charts are not for our beautiful children. Our children develop in their own time. They have character traits, skills and idiosyncracies that are not even recognised by the milestone charts.

Our children are not for boxing up. They don't fit the perfect shape the world wants them to be. They are who they are. We should be celebrating their differences not trying to squeeze them all into the same hole.

As for Smug Mummy, she doesn't make much of an appearance these days thanks to the muddy footprints on the carpet, the throwing of food, the rude words, the fighting over the same spot on the sofa, the tweenage strops and the two-second teeth cleaning attempts. I muddle through and hope that one day I might be able to be Smug Grandma....

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