Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Compare & Envy

It takes some time to adjust to the reality of having a child with special needs (honestly, I'm not entirely there yet myself) and in the beginning I felt like I was constantly (unfairly) comparing Rae to other children her age. While my (logical) inner Spock understood the situation and attempted to reason with my (emotional) inner Capt. Kirk (to no avail), I just couldn't stop making those damned comparisons.

After many months of mental chastising, I can finally say, "I have stopped comparing Rae to children her age without the developmental delays that she is experiencing!" It's normal for parents to compare their children to other children (we all do it...just admit it). Who walks first, who talks first, who made honor roll, who is the team captain, who was given the lead in the school play...on and on and on. Sometimes the thoughts are harmless and mean nothing. Other times they can be dangerous depending on the mental stability of the parent thinking them. These comparisons are just a part of life and it was much easier to stop comparing Rae to children that aren't like her (especially if they were older).

Since beating back the impulse to compare Rae to children within developmental standards, I now have to contend with another mental monster I never anticipated. I have to tell myself to stop comparing her abilities to children who have similar developmental delays. I know it sounds like I'm fighting the same monster, but they aren't the same. However, they are distant cousins.

I think the first time I found myself comparing Rae's abilities to another special needs child I was a little shocked and appalled at myself. Who does that kind of crap? (apparently I do) Why would you compare them, they are both struggling. Well, the answer is pretty simple. I want to shout to the world that Rae has crawled, said "mama," or is cruising around our living room like a bat out of hell. I want to post videos of her first unsteady steps or take a picture of her standing on her own with no assistance (yeah, I know it sounds a tad selfish).

The fact is...I can't. In reality, some of the things she used to do, like giving high-fives, she has stopped doing. Those little victories that sustain us have started slipping away and not from lack of us trying to encourage her to continue doing them. It's like a switch has been flipped in her brain and she just won't do them (which generates more questions for the doctors). And while we find more pieces to the puzzle and struggle to put them all together children are passing her by and my fears (wheelchair, immobility, non-verbal) start becoming more of a reality instead of just a nightmare.

These comparisons can lead to feelings of envy (another monster we all battle). This is the ugly side of the coin. The side most would be afraid to admit to, but I'm just going to lay it out on the table because I believe it is normal to feel this way as a parent of any child (special needs or not). There is nothing wrong with how I'm feeling. What matters is how I conduct myself when I irrationally compare my daughter to other children or how I handle that moments of envy that flare up from time to time. Do I let it control my emotions and wallow in self pity at our circumstances? Do I try to force Rae to work on motor skills that are beyond her ability ending in frustration and tears? Do I rob myself of feeling joy for other parents who are finally seeing the long desired results of therapy? Or worse yet, do I rob them of their joy??

I decided a long time ago to take joy in their joy, to try not compare Rae to other children because she is unlike other children, and to take a deep breath when those feelings of envy surface. Gently reminding myself that even though Rae has her own struggles they could be worse, much, much worse. It is a choice I make every day and it isn't always an easy one.


  1. That's quite a moment isn't it, when u realize you don't compare ur kid to typical kids as they r now so far ahead , and you start to compare ur kid to othe kids with delays. To me it was even more depressing, as Ryan was always behind even the most delayed kids. I remember a kid same age as R that got head control etc same as Ryan , it ws comforting to have another child on the same timeline as yours and then at one point he flew past ryan to walking! In order to keep my sanity I had to let all that go, rejoice in other kids milestones, and realize R was on his own timeline, even if it was very slow. I've learned to focus on Ryan's strengths, it's much less depressing, but lm not going to lie, those feeling of envy creep in sometimes ( more than I care to admit)

    1. Thank you for sharing Marie Clare. I hate admitting those same feelings and always feel ashamed whenever they creep into my mind. I usually try to take a deep breath and tell myself that she is on her own timeline and is making progress. Still chokes me up though...and turns me a tad green.

  2. I've felt this before too and sadly I'm glad I'm not alone. I hate when I find myself wishing that some diagnosis wasn't so main stream because it takes away from my two boys less know diagnosis. Or when you see another special needs kiddo and think, 'what's that mom bitching about? Her kid doesn't have it so bad.' Those dark thoughts you wish you could erase.

    1. You're not alone. I think we all go there from time to time. I'm usually more susceptible after we've had some not so great news or when it seems her progress has plateaued. I've learned to just keep moving and try not to dwell on the bad thoughts. Keep strong!