Comparison is the thief of joy

Picture of Jack and Ellie, both at 10 months old

Ellie just finished her annual evaluations and both of the kids just had their regular wellness checkups. I’ve been answering questions and questionnaires, second guessing and comparing everything for about a month. I compare the kids to each other. I compare the kids to other kids their age. I compare myself to others. It’s hard not to do.

Ellie is 15 months old this week. Her height and weight are off the charts, but because she is much smaller than other girls her age and, on her evaluations, she mostly scored between 6 and 9 months old.

Physically, she only recently started to sit on her own and make her way around the house in her own sitting/crawling way. She has pulled herself up to standing position without our help only one time and it was last week. While her feeding tube is her primary source of nutrition, she can drink milk out of a cup with a straw, but isn’t always interested. At home, she will sometimes swallow food that makes it to her mouth, but mostly she ends up spitting it out.

She likes to play with us and wants to be in the middle of things, however, she watches us more than she participates a lot of times. She and Ben are reading Les Misérables – a few pages every night – but she does not show interest in many books when she plays by herself.  She communicates by waving “bye-bye” and “hi.”

Jack learning about pulley systems.

Three-year-old Jack is off the growth charts, but in the other direction. He is taller than most boys his age, but that is no surprise with genetics. He aces all of the physical questions and is very strong. He is a smart boy who, during dinner, tells us elaborate stories that he creates in his head and can count to 40. He is potty trained except for pull-ups at night. His favorite thing to do in the mornings and at night is read. He can already recognize letters in the books and I am sure he will be pointing out words to us soon.

Jack at 15 months.

By 15 months old, Jack had walked all over the mall in Washington, D.C and climbed every stair up to the Lincoln Memorial, could tell us about his belly button, ate Cheerios with his fingers out of a Ziplock bag and carried an arsenal of jokes ready to make people laugh.

I have friends who have children Ellie’s age. Watching their kids, hearing them talk about their kids and seeing Ellie interact with kids her age and younger, it only highlights for me how far she still has to go.

At the pediatrician’s office this week, while we were talking about Ellie and when she might get some teeth, the pediatrician said, “You know, it does no good to compare her to other kids. Just like I would tell you if we were talking about Jack, they are all different and all move at their own pace. The real comparison you should be making is where she is today vs. where she was six months ago.”

There’s that light bulb going off above my head again.

In the past six months, Ellie has learned how to sit without support. She can laugh and does often. She is growing more independent and knows how to get herself across the floor to play with any toy that she wants or to get to her favorite spot in the house – at the glass front door waving “bye-bye” to the traffic that passes by. She gives kisses liberally. She snuggles in the chair with her daddy every night to read the next few pages of Les Mis. She can drink her milk from a straw and is trying new foods every day. She loves to go to school and has has come so far since her last hospitalization in March. She even stood up in the bathtub all by herself the other day!

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