Parenting in the Pandemic: I know I shouldn’t compare but…

Sometimes I worry that Lucas is falling behind.

I’m sure every parent worries about this. I worry he’s short for his age. I worry that he’s too skinny. I worry that he’s hyperactive, or that he has behavioral problems.

I know I shouldn’t compare, but what parent doesn’t? That little girl reads so well, but it’s okay because she’s much older than Lucas. This little boy is reading on his own, but wait he’s younger! Why is that cousin so much taller? Why is this kid’s handwriting so much neater? Oh wow that kid draws so well, I think ruefully as I look at my son’s scrawls all over paper.

I worry that isolation has caused his development to slow down, even stall. I worry that the lack of sunshine and exercise is keeping his body small and thin. I worry because he’s still not properly toilet-trained.

I know all parents worry. I know we’re always told not to compare our kids to others, that each child develops differently. I know all the stories about so and so genius who didn’t read or didn’t speak until they were X years old. I know personalities and temperaments and learning styles are different for each child, and experiences and environments affect children in different ways.

That doesn’t stop me from worrying. Why doesn’t my son like using his potty? Are other children as talkative and willful as he? Oh my God is he eating enough vegetables? Most of the time I’m too distracted by the tedium of daily life to worry about these things, but there are days when the anxiety creeps in and I worry that we’re not doing enough to teach our son and to help him grow and develop. There are days when we scold him for not listening or for some other transgression, and I worry that we’re hurting his emotional development. There are days when he watches YouTube Kids all day, and I worry that he’s turning into a zombie, that we’ve turned into those parents who let the screen babysit our child.

And then I read an interesting article on TED.com, and this stood out to me:

Trying to predict how a child will turn out based on choices made by their parents is like trying to predict a hurricane from the flap of a butterfly’s wings.

Do you know about the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings in China, perturbing the atmosphere just enough to shift wind currents that they end up fueling a hurricane in the Caribbean six weeks later?

If you are a parent, you are the butterfly flapping your wings. Your child is the hurricane, a breathtaking force of nature. You will shape the person your child becomes — just like the butterfly shapes the hurricane — in complex, seemingly unpredictable but powerful ways. The hurricane wouldn’t exist without the butterfly.

You might ask, “What about all the successful parents who have successful children? Or the struggling parents who have struggling children?”

They seem to show the power of parenting, but children are shaped by many forces that they grow up with and that are often intertwined — forces like genes, peers and culture. This makes it hard to know which forces influence who children become.

Yuko Munakata PhD

I remember that my son actually loves math, quite unlike me and Oneal. I remember my son’s creativity, his love of stories, his enthusiasm for helping others. I remember his relentless curiosity, and his fascination with, well, everything. I remember how he loves trying new food and doing things by himself. I remember his affection for people and his love of animals.

One night, he wanted to take apart his Paw Patrol car, so he could see how it works. He kept insisting I get him a screwdriver, and he wanted to remove all the panels underneath.

Every day, several times a day, he’ll randomly say, “Mommy? I love you,” as he’s playing or walking past me to get a snack. Every day he says something funny or witty. Every day he asks questions that baffle us and make us laugh.

Every day, he shows me and reminds me that he’s absorbing so much, turning things over in his head, connecting the dots and figuring things out.

I worry, but every day he makes me think, maybe we’re not doing so badly after all.

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