Keeping Up With the Jones’s (kid)

It’s graduation time, and there are stories everywhere of kids graduating from high school or college, or going on to get their graduate degree.  The air is alive with hope and success and optimism.

And then, across my news feed, comes a status from a young man about our Big G’s age.  He has decided that the school he is in, is not a good fit for him.  He’s been miserable.  He has been confused, and his words bring to mind someone who has just been treading water.  So he is changing schools – and the joy in his words cannot be ignored.

But wait, this means he probably won’t graduate with his class!  When everyone else his age is getting ready to be applying for graduation status, he will still be plugging away.  A change in major, a change in location – he’s not keeping up!

So what?

Raising kids can sometimes feel like a competition. It begins when we are pregnant, and the discussion delves into such topics as “who is sicker” or “who had the cutest bump,” then on to “most hours in labor” or “most natural childbirth”.

Then, it’s on to our babies. When did they roll over/sit up/stand/walk?  How many teeth?  Oh, no teeth (or hair) until they were nearly a year?  (Side eye)

It feels like a race.


BUT:  I had one who was a late talker, who needed some help to push that “speech” button. I had one who spoke early, and often, and well.  And I learned something really, really important.

Kids all grow at their own stages, and in their own time.

Most people realize that this is not news.  Sure, some kids need a little help to catch up.  And some kids race on ahead.  And some just keep plodding forward.

What this fails to take into account, however, is that the same personality traits that led to our babies being not-quite-willing to walk, or to our older kids’ lack of interest in tying their own shoes, is quite possibly going to be a personality trait that will stay with them.

And the little one who spoke early, and was a go-getter, and has huge plans and big projects – that is likely to last, also.

Or not.  Sometimes our lives are two-steps-forward and an awkward trip-and-fall, until we learn to dance.  Our kids are like that too.

When our kids get into high school and college, the “competition” keeps going. We just stopped discussing it. Our friends may have kids who are the respective king or queen of their class – and if our kids are moving a little more slowly, or doing things a little differently, we may feel like we can’t really talk about it.  It’s one thing to say that Little Johnny is slow to potty train, but quite another to admit they are failing two courses or they really don’t know what they want to do.

This is their FUTURE, and it is fear that keeps us silent.

We need to commit to being real about our children.  Yes, Miss Queen is absolutely stunning – but she can’t seem to shake that boy who follows her.  Or Little Johnny may indeed need some extra academic help, but he can build anything he sets his hands to.  The moment we decide to be real about these children we love, is the moment we can begin to accept who they really are.

My friend’s son will likely be adding a full year or two on to his degree plan.  He’s had to change a lot of his life goals, in the meantime.

Big G won’t be graduating when most of the same-age kids we know are finishing or have already finished their Bachelor’s.  She changed schools and has had to adjust some of her plans.  But, you know what?  She moved slowly and carefully towards other developmental goals when she was little.  Why would this be different?  She is HAPPY.

Most importantly, both of them will have the knowledge of what works for them, and what does not.  They will be farther along life’s true path than many of the kids who have tossed their mortarboard.  And that deserves a ribbon, too.

I am not one who believes that everyone should get a ribbon for participating.  But I do firmly believe that life is a race of individuals, beginning from infancy and continuing on.


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