I know I shouldn’t do it, really I do, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.
I am not talking about having another beer or opening that pack of Jaffa Cakes I just got in the post. The beer will be opened as soon as it has chilled and the Jaffa Cakes have already gone.
I am of course talking about comparing our son to other kids of about the same age.
Every time I go to a website looking for tips or hints it tells me that it can be detrimental because every kid develops at slightly different paces. A little bit quicker in this respect, but a little bit slower in another. To be honest, I don’t even need to read this on a website as I knew it before I even became a dad; obviously no two children are going to develop at the same rate because they are two unique human beings.
When it comes to language this is perhaps even more problematic when comparing one kid who is growing up to (hopefully) be bilingual and another who is probably going to be monolingual, at least in the short-term. There are just so many other variables to throw into the pot that it really is like comparing apples and oranges. (I never really understood this phrase. I mean, I find it very easy to compare apples with oranges; one you just eat, the other you spend minutes trying to get into and end up squirting yourself, or the person sitting next to you, with juice. One you can make cider out of, the other those lovely Jaffa Cakes I have just finished devouring.)
It doesn’t stop me doing me comparing though. And usually, no good comes of it at all.
A case in point. A couple of weeks ago my wife met a good friend of hers who has a son who is a few weeks younger than ours. She came home and told me that her friend’s son was speaking a lot more than Thomas, that he had many more words and was using them in two and three word phrases a lot more.
Outwardly I tried to remain calm. I said that this was quite normal. Some kids speak earlier than others. It happens all the time. I cited research that suggests that sometimes bilingual babies and toddlers can seem to be behind their monolingual peers, but they quickly catch up and even overtake them, given time. Besides, he might just be a budding Einstein.
Inside I was worried. What if he really was falling behind. What if our strategy was the wrong one? What if the scientists and researchers were wrong again? What is the scientists and researchers were right normally, but not in this specific case? Arrgh! What if..? What if..?
A couple of nights later we went out for a curry with another friend who is also bringing up his kid to be bilingual. This time the child is about 6 months older than ours, and of course we got talking about the language that our (not so) little ones are using. What a relief! He had a similar story to ours. Lots of one word phrases. Lots of pointing and the use of intonation. A third of his words in Portuguese, a third in English and another third in his own sweet language that only his parents really understand.
I sat back feeling smug. I had been proven right. The researchers and scientists had been right all along. In comparing my son to this friend’s son I had nothing to worry about.
Except that I am comparing again.
So what have I learnt? I am not sure really. I have either learnt (again) not to compare my son to others because that way lies madness. Or I have learnt that I can compare my son with other kids when it is favourable to do so.
Or maybe I have only learnt that a box of Jaffa Cakes really isn’t big enough.
Comparing My Children – dadandproud.wordpress.com
Einstein Syndrome – wikipedia.org
5 Mistakes Made by Every New Parent – cracked.com