I’ve always been competitive, really competitive. For as long as I can remember I always had to be the best at whatever it was I was doing. Failure to achieve anything less than perfection would result in meltdowns of various shapes and sizes. My poor parents. There’s a lot of upside to being a competitive perfectionist but it gets a bit messy when you add in temper as a wildcard variable. You know, sports, teenage love, school, bands and then jobs. While my binary approach to success and failure has evolved a bit over time, I now find myself getting competitive with childhood milestones and parenting results.
Considering my wife and I spent 3 weeks living in the NICU waiting for our little man to meet all the marks and earn his release papers, it sure feels like we started things on a competitive foot. Has he gained enough weight? Can he control his body temperature? Are his poops stinky enough? Of course I took that all very personally and was pained and pissed each time they told us, “Let’s see how he’s doing tomorrow.”
Now he’s a thriving toddler, climbing everything, spotting planes on the horizon, dancing to Beyonce, eating all his greens and pointing out every truck that speeds by. All of that and I still can’t manage to concede that all is right and he’s going to naturally do great things.
I struggle with big and little things alike. His friends and anonymous peers are running, speaking a common tongue, eating full meals with a fork, starting to potty train, following a daily schedule, have all their teeth and I think one even started applying to college. Are we doing something wrong? Why do I beat myself up? It’s been 20 months and you’d never know he was an underweight pre-term baby who couldn’t figure out how to latch yet I’m still obsessed with everything he’s not doing instead of focusing on what he is doing.
The question then isn’t really “Why?”. I know why, that’s how I’m wired. The question I’m constantly faced with is “How?”. How do I come to terms with the reality that every kid is learning on their own curve and moving at their own speed? How do I ensure I can control the amount of personal drive that overlaps my personal and parental doings? How am I going to survive the next 50 years? Ugh.
I know all parents have these thoughts and worries. The difference is that when you all have them I don’t lose sleep and sanity and I don’t have to spend hours researching socialization methods for an introverted parent who struggles with anxiety and a mood disorder. This is personal. This confession is a coping mechanism, something I can reread and feel a little silly.