I would not have the following conversation with a mom friend of mine:
Mom friend: “How are you today, Rachel?”
Me: “I’m great, mom friend. Claire just said an 11-word sentence, which was grammatically correct. It was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever heard. It made my day!”
I would share that sentiment with my husband, Claire’s grandma or a friend who doesn’t have kids. My friends without kids would probably say something in return like, “Cool! Is an 11-word sentence good?”
I was reluctant to start a post like this too, even though it's the truth about Claire's current state of language acquisition, as well as my feeling about her blossoming ability to share her thoughts with me.
After all, I’m breaking serious mom etiquette. I’m not supposed to a) admit to keeping track of my child’s development so blatantly as to count the words in her sentences or b) be bragging about her mad skills in any particular area. If you google “bragging mom”, you can find tons of articles shaming such officious behavior.
I’m by nature a rule follower. I fear I’m exposing an obnoxious, squawking side of myself that is derided by mothers everywhere.
It’s precisely because of my fear that I swing to the opposite direction in daily interactions, which is equally annoying. I find myself being apologetic, diminishing my daughter’s very own strengths. I can see the wheels turning in other mom's heads as they compare their child to my daughter:
“I can’t get over how Claire talks. Sarah doesn’t say a word yet,” mom friend said, recently. “Do you think she’s autistic?”
“Wow, I want Max to hang around Claire more often,” another mom friend said. “Why can’t he say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ like her?”
Another mom was more direct: “I’m jealous! I wish Cassie talked like that,” she said.
I can’t take these statements. I don’t like feeling that Claire and I have made other people feel bad or uncomfortable. I just can’t seem to help responding by sharing Claire’s weak spots. She does not have the greatest gross motor skills, and could care less about figuring out how things like puzzles and blocks work.
I do also make a point to share the strengths that I see in each child. Sarah has amazing emotional intelligence. Max is a great problem solver. Cassandra has a long attention span. I mean what I say too. If there's one thing that I learned as a teacher of kids with special needs, it’s that all children have strengths. We are better off focusing on a child’s strengths and interests than comparing him or her to others.
But it’s human nature to compare. I do it too. That’s fine. It’s also inevitable that we want to celebrate our own children’s abilities.
Yet, as I go to hit the publish button on this post, I’m still worried about how you will view my words. I'm praying that you'll see me as less of a braggy mom, and more of a bloggy mom wanting to shine some light on a complex issue. (You do, don't you? Please tell me you do!)
I doubt I’ll be doing any such bragging to my mom friends any time soon either. I’m probably going to stick to being proud of Claire with my husband, grandma and friends who don’t know any better.
I have made a pact with myself though. I refuse to diminish my daughter any longer. That stance is ridiculously excessive. It’s a projection to think that other mothers even want this kind of reaction from me anyway.
Besides, even if they do, Claire deserves a mom who errs on the side of singing her praises, not one who is worried about people seeing her as a braggart. (You don't, do you?)
How do you feel about sharing your child’s accomplishments? How about when others share their child’s accomplishments with you? Is there a difference between 'bragging' and 'celebrating a child'? Do you ever find yourself comparing your children to others?
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Photo Source: Jeremiah John McBride, Flckr