Saturday, September 19, 2009

Beyond Compare

We've had a couple of neat things with Joy lately.

We've been hearing a lot of "uh-oh" again. Last night I was up for a while during the wee small hours, and heard Joy speak a big loud "UH-OH" from her bed, followed by a manic giggle. And then silence...

There are a lot more attempts and variations with the "more" sign recently. One particularly charming variation is to grab the hands of whatever adult is torturing is working with her at the moment, and bring that person's hands together to make the sign.

Joy loves to stim on hair-combs, and now that she's got enough hair to actually comb again, we've been trying to get her to actually use the comb a little bit. And, wonder of wonders, she's actually occasionally bringing the comb to her head and swiping a bit, with encouragement!

Joy is five years and four months old.


Joy's seven-year-old sister Rose was saying "uh-oh" at 8 months.

She was starting to use the "more" sign at 10 months.

And there was a startling moment at 10 months where I, on a whim and not having tried to teach her at all, handed Rose a hairbrush and asked her, "What do we do with this?" She responded by bringing it to her hair. I was amazed at how she'd simply picked that up... amazed at the course of human development... amazed that I'd not had to explicitly teach her at all.

Such a different trajectory. It's almost like there's no comparison.


As if it's helpful to compare. I don't do it all that often. We haven't been forced into it lately by any of those assessments that slap a time frame ("operating at the level of an X-month-old") onto Joy's achievements, or lack thereof.

I try to blog "in the moment." If I'd cut off this post before the "she's five years and four months old" line, it would fit that framework nicely.

I'm learning about developmental screening tools now, though. And getting a bit of review of "typical" development. And how our kids get put into the boxes that get them the help they need, by getting compared against the norm as best the experts know it.

Also, it's not fair to Rose to try to forget about her achievements and how we rejoiced in all the things she could do, so early, so very early on.

It's a balancing act, spinning plates aside.

How does one get to "beyond compare"?


Anonymous said...

I truly believe that a natural instinct to compare is borne in the value of commonality among us. We innately want to be like others and especially others who on a finer scale are more like ourselves.

Beyond that, we want our children to be like ourselves.

Beyond that is the value we place on the few who do things really well, the best, the prize-winners. Perhaps this value has been accentuated in American culture.

With all this, parents who are gifted with the child who is less common, less like themselves, less likely to show valued performance behaviors is poised to compare.

Is it helpful to compare? We have come to believe that the trajectory of developmental altering diagnoses can be changed with intervention. We are less than a generation away from closeting children who were recognized early as different to an attitude where the threshold of good parenting is activism.

I mean to say that with the current imperfect system of evaluation and assessment of children with diagnoses we are not yet at the means to enter them into intervention, validate that intervention and continue it without butting against our nature. :(

This is a perfect opportunity to share another post - a valid lament on the restrictions imposed on group homes.

"How does one get to "beyond compare"?" If I was someone else, I would put a one word answer: acceptance. Of difference.

Beyond acceptance of the differences in some children is the recognition of what they have in common with their parents. (Like playing with string.)

Beyond acceptance is ownership and a righteous defense for allowing and promoting differences.

Barbara (really Run-ning at the Keyboard today)

JoyMama said...

Thanks for the reflections & the link, Barbara.

"An attitude where the threshold of good parenting is activism." Whew... but yeah, that's surely at least part of the standard to which I hold myself.

Acceptance in such a situation is a delicate word. We need an acceptance (/ recognition / ownership) that somehow includes high expectations but not deludingly so; that celebrates gains and achievements and yet doesn't fall apart when certain gains roll back...

It's quite the undertaking.

Your comment about where we were less than a generation ago is at the heart of my next upcoming post! :)

jess wilson said...

when i first started to become concerned about kendall's development, matt fought hard to keep me on the rails. he was convinced that the only problem was my constant comparisons to her older sister's development.

'jess, he would say, you can't compare her to darby. darby is an exceptional kid. it's not fair to try to compare them. of course she can't do what darby did at this age.'

but the comparison was all that i had, and it served its purpose and thankfully signaled that we needed help.

so, for a time, those comparisons, as difficult as they were, were helpful.

but now? now i try with all my heart to stay away from them. i don't always succeed.

recently, i saw a picture that i took of darby on our girls weekend in ny a couple of years ago. she was so grown up, arm in arm with her best little buddy, taking in the city like little two little eloises at the plaza. we'd taken in plays, shopped, had wonderful meals. she was such a little grown up that weekend and LOVED every minute. and suddenly it hit me like a stake in the heart - she was YOUNGER than kendall is now.

they are different children. they will be different adults. all we can do is love them and guide them on their own paths.

but yeah, sometimes it's just really damn hard.

Anonymous said...

My Hubby and I discuss 'comparing' our children all.the.time. Most often to throw ourselves off from that trap.

"they are different children. they will be different adults. all we can do is love them and guide them on their own paths."

That's us, too.

The activism threshold can be added stress to a parent who is just trying to parent and meander the education and medical needs of their child. I know you will not be among those chiding "you must do this" to every other parent. Still, I think you come by your activism/leadership tendencies naturally.

Please share more on how seeing the other side of developmental evals looks to a parent with some experience of them. Can you get Beyond Compare?


mama edge said...

As I read your post, I was anticipating that you would confess to being "forced into it" by a recent assessment. Those suckers crush me every time. But I can also get a bit wobbly after spending a lot of quality time with a friend's NT kids. It must be especially difficult to have the comparison in your face all the time in your home. Ouch.

As Barbara said, it's natural that we go there sometimes. I guess for me, the key is that nasty word, "acceptance". Not just of our kids' "different trajectory", but also of the fact that we will grieve now and again.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow... it IS tomorrow, right?

JoyMama said...

mama edge - nope, the trigger was the vivid comb/brush memory. Which I then had to go check in Rose's baby book to see if I was really remembering what I thought I did. Which then led to me seeing these other things that Joy is only doing now, that Rose did at 8-10 months. Bleah.

jess - we had the same dynamic, can't compare little Joy to little Rose because little Rose was so exceptional. However, in our case I was doing a daycare swap with another family whose son was 2 days older than Joy. So it was kind of like having an NT twin around, and that comparison *was* helpful, if depressing. (At least Joy rolled and crawled and walked before he did, gave us some comfort that way!)

By the way, that former daycare buddy danced with Rose in the rain after church last night, and then when Joy & I came out, he made a special point of coming over to give me a hug and Joy a high-five. Now THERE's a beyond-compare moment! :-)

Anonymous said...

I recall reading in a book once that said "milestones" are the language of motherhood. Whether it's the park, the gym or the grocery store, motheres inevitably start talking about 'what Johnny just did.' it still hurts sometimes.

but as others have said, the comparisons are what gave me a clue about rhema's delays. since she was my first i really had no other measuring stick. and then it was bittersweet to watch hope "pass" rhema in less than 12 months. sigh.

but it's always helpful for me to focus on rhema's strengths. (you're one of the best mothers i know for doing that - you always celebrate Joy's accomplishments here, taking nothing away from them). rhema has a strong visual memory. when she was hope's age, she was much more advanced at puzzles than hope is... there i go comparing again!

datri said...

Comparing is tough, so I try to avoid it, but sometimes it just smacks me in the face. Usually Kayla is "just Kayla" and I'm fine with that. But when I went to Laurie's school's Open House I was sitting with a mom I know and it suddenly struck me that her two kids were in Kindergarten also. And it seemed light years away from Kayla in development. (I mean, heck, they could TALK!) A wave of sadness just came out of nowhere. But it was just a wave, and it washed away quickly.

pixiemama said...

I have a very vivid comparison memory, too. Foster was probably about 3.5 years old and still eating by grabbing handfuls of food and stuffing them into his mouth, with food spilling out the sides of his mouth, down into his bib, all over his clothes, all over the floor. He was tall enough to need no booster seat. Sophie was about 10 months old, sitting beside him in her highchair, eating mess-free with a spoon.

It was the first time I had EVER seen one of my children employ a skill we hadn't labored over in therapy and at home. She just picked up her spoon and used it, as if she had known how to do it all along.

I have not since gotten beyond compare. It's a lens through which I see all of the kids. When I see Finn really playing with toys with imagination and creativity at 2.5 years old, I can also see Reilly and Foster playing quietly, always side-by-side, always stacking, lining, mouthing, spinning wheels.

I know that it's OK. The kids are all different in their own ways, in their personalities, in their needs.

But it remains bittersweet.