A child of one of my friends plays chess. He's seven.
Soren's cousin paddleboards. At seven. Another cousin learned to ride a bike at two.
At seven, Soren is making progress in putting on his socks. He can almost trace the letter S. He's sitting at the table to eat. And I am so proud of him.
What's interesting to me about knowing these tidbits about others is that I feel absolutely no resentment or jealously. These are just facts about other kids. For some surprising reason, I don't immediately jump to comparing and contrasting other kids with Soren.
Is this equanimity just growth as a special needs parent? Have I just moved along in the journey, well past grief and then comparison, to a sort of peaceful mindfulness? Perhaps. But what strikes me is that I can be this non-judgmental about Soren when this lack of comparison is so foreign to me.
As long as I can remember, I have judged myself and oriented myself in comparison to other people. Other people helped me know where I stood in the world, and whether to be proud (college grades) or ashamed (high school PE) of myself. My self-image is totally wrapped up in comparison. How far off the norm am I? Once I find out, I know how to think of myself.
I got good grades in high school and college. But it wasn't because I had sparks of understanding or creativity. It was because I figured out what the other students were doing for their term paper, for example, and I did just one notch better. I knew how to do that paper only by comparison. There was no passion about the subjects, just a sort of formula to do well. Is it any wonder that I remember very little about my college classes, even in my major?
But with Soren, I compare him only with where he's been. There is no timetable. There are no typical developmental milestones. I've thrown these out, along with the brand-new but outgrown underwear that Soren is just not ready to use.
And what fun it is to have pure joy and pride in something Soren can do. It's just about him, not about how he stacks up. He can put on his pants now! He ate a bite of chicken! He went to school without crying!
Man, I wish I could experience this independent view of myself the way I view Soren. Could I give a speech, write a blog post, dress for a party without comparison? And what if this freedom allowed me to make grander life plans that I'm so hesitant to make because I don't have models of such activities?
I'd love your feedback about this comparison issue. And I'm going to really work on not molding my thoughts in response to yours.