Sunday, January 24, 2010

I wish I could stop comparing my kids

My little girl, Sabrina, is learning how to swim. Every Saturday, we take her to a local Y for lessons and she kicks up a storm. She's getting pretty good.

I sit on the bleachers along with the other parents, sweating a little from the humidity and taking a rare few moments to sit and not do anything. My mind wanders and I mull over the leaps and bounds Sabrina has been making. She turns five this week and she's starting to spell and read words, find her way around the computer, and create the most beautiful drawings. 

I think about Max, my seven-year-old, who has cerebral palsy. He has been making progress, too. Like he is obsessed with the color purple and has been noticing it everywhere and saying "Ur-ul! Ur-ul!" It's just one of the ways he's getting more communicative. He can now spell "M-A-X" out loud. He's also using both hands more often (his left one is more functional—he typically neglects to use the right). But often, it feels like Max is treading water while Sabrina is plowing ahead.

I try not to compare my children yet inevitably, I do. And it is so unfair to Max, because he is not Sabrina. For one, the fact that he is making progress is pretty miraculous, considering the extent of his brain damage and what we were told at birth. And he has his superpowers: His brightness, alertness, curiosity and smarts are merits all his own. Not to mention the dimples and good hair.

I have come a long way from Max's early years, when I'd compare him to other kids on the playground and at birthday parties and end up coming home in tears. I no longer do that, though I still see him through the lens of his sister's accomplishments. Also unfair: I'm always holding Max up to Sabrina, never the opposite, though when I think about it she would be very lucky to have just an ounce of his good-natured ways. Max also has a sharper sense of humor. The other day we were at a local pub where they had this Simpsons video bowling game. At one point, Marge picks up the baby and rolls her down the lane like a bowling ball; the baby then crawls out of the machine. Well, Max noticed that detail and was cracking up. He has the most infectious laugh; it's hard not to join in. 

If I'm going to compare my kids, I'm going to at least make sure it goes both ways. That's not the best answer, but hey, it's progress. 


  1. With sibs the comparing does seem almost impossible not to do, but you are right, each child has their own gifts and each child should be celebrated.

  2. Hi Ellen! When I had my typical daughter after my son, I was blown away by how miraculous typical development is. It's an absolute miracle. It's not anything kids have to "try" to do or work hard at. They learn everything by osmosis and naturally. So it actually gave me a new appreciation for just how HARD and frustrating things were for my son -- and how there really was no comparison. For us typical people, we're given things on a silver platter. It's only when we have a child with a disability that we realize what we've taken for granted. Comparing our kids (and I know it's human nature to compare and we all do it) is like valuing the accomplishment of someone who had an unfair advantage in a race over the person who didn't. There just is no comparison!

  3. Progress is everything, and comparison is inevitable, just noticing it may be enough. For now.