I cross-checked my handiwork against yours. And by “cross-checked” I mean “compared.” By “handiwork” I mean my kid. By “yours,” I mean…well, yours: that small human who may have babbled first or crawled later or smiles less, who has more playdates or fewer playdates and never cries. Ever. And if you didn’t actually tell me any of this, don’t worry. I deduced it from those facebook pictures…a complete and accurate representation of your entire parenting experience. Also, I regret it.
I usually do.
Elbee’s not to thank for my
neurosis diligence. No. It started a long, long time ago. Probably, my mother has everything something to do with it.
Once, I made the Honor Roll. Strike that. I always made the Honor Roll but this one time, I made second honors and my fifth grade bff made first. Of note, “She never makes first. You always make first. What happened?” (Long division, that’s what!) And whether for want of confidence in my number-crunching or honest-to-goodness lack of numerical aptitude but not because I didn’t try, I got a ‘B’ in the second quarter of fifth grade math. She got an ‘A.’ And nobody – not least of which a shamed and disappointed me – paid any regard to the fact that I still made the Honor Roll! Or that I got a ‘B’ (a better than average mark) in a subject I found fundamentally challenging. As a result, I never congratulated my buddy for the way her extra studying paid off. I just quietly resented her. And she probably thought I was a bitch for failing to notice her accomplishment which, in lots of ways, was spot on. At best, I was a lousy friend.
Later I’d cross-check my college acceptance letters against everyone I knew (more competitive, less competitive), practicum placement, first job (in field, out of field, big city, small town), first apartment (one bedroom = not a studio = must be in better shape than…) and on. And on. And on.
Look, over the years, I’d learn that decorum dictates even when you’re teeming with upset, it’s necessary to back-burner all of it or risk isolating people who are really far too important. Take, for example, those years we spent trying to get knocked up and watching piles of our nearest and dearest welcome first babies, first babies turned toddlers before our very eyes, and those toddlers the same age our kid would be right now had she happened when we intended. Usually, lots of times, I sucked it up and mustered a congratulations. Occasionally, I even meant it. Always I wished I did.
Then I had a kid, whose little life, by its very new nature, is punctuated by milestones of greater/lesser importance and which are accomplished on a timetable everything and nothing like other kids’. At once, my mother made an ounce of twisted sense. And like my mother, and doubtless hers before her, I clamored after best because anything else meant room for improvement meant not all right right now, so I consulted the baby books (and your facebook feed) to determine how my kid stacked up against others’.
Which is when I learned that usually she had yours beat. Smiling at four weeks, sitting at four months, responding to her name at four-and-a-half, peek-a-booing at five, standing at six, clapping, crawling and cruising at seven, waving at eight, pointing at nine. She dances in step with music, crosses her arms in displeasure, understands a couple of handfuls of words and can’t keep her mouth shut. She anticipates her favorite parts in favorite books and manipulates big kid toys. She engages with complete strangers, calling to them from across crowded rooms and holding out her arms to be picked up. “Scary bright,” notes her pediatrician. “Baby genius bright.”
Except for this one time when she didn’t because she lagged far, far behind. When your kid was self-feeding pasta fasul, mine was consuming nearly 100 percent of her 26oz. daily intake of hypoallergenic formula through a rubber nipple, unable to tolerate even the most delicious purees, gagging on the tiniest morsels of whole foods and screaming in the face of spoons until, at long last, it was apparent that we hadn’t neglected to serve her favorite food or cock the utensil at an appropriate angle to make her comfy. It had nothing to do with us or something we hadn’t tried and we were tiring at the suggestion. It wasn’t a case of retrograde picky eating, either. It was a pediatric feeding disorder.
Which is when I learned that cross-checking my kid alongside some textbook kid, or a real life kid who isn’t her, is totally futile. With each meal, Elbee drove home the point: She isn’t like other kids. At least not entirely. She is like herself. She hates bananas and gags on “puffs.” And, with each meal, I cared less and less about what your baby had for lunch. I cared what Elbee didn’t.
Which is when I learned there’s a difference between “best” and “best for.” Best is an ‘A’. It’s textbook perfect…achieving milestones prescribed by some expert somewhere who knows a lot about babies but never met my kid. Or yours. “Best for” takes into account that no two people are alike. Some of them find math challenging. And some of them need medical intervention and occupational therapy to master mealtime.
Which is when I decided to be ok with good enough. Whether as a condition of those long-suffering early months plagued by GERD and allergic colitis, a stress response to the trauma of choking – like, actually choking – on her first foods, because of a physical obstruction, lately-contracted c-diff or because she’s wired as differently (wonderfully) as G-d intended, our yardstick for what constitutes a nice family meal is different now. (Sometimes it’s a battle-weary mom nibbling from a fruit cup in a hospital cafeteria while the baby on her lap sips fitfully from a bottle. Which isn’t an NG tube. Which thank you, G-d. Seriously.) I absolve my kid (and, while we’re at it, her parents) of the pressure to be best, aspire to what’s best for and vow to be content with good enough.
“Good enough.” That’s today for “f’ing epic.”