I am throwing together the day’s lunch bag for school while my daughter slowly wakes to My Little Pony. I can’t believe I am packing Pringles, Kool-Aid and Oreos for my daughter’s lunch. I’m sure every other kid has fresh fruit and organic bread.
Probably other parents don’t let their kid watch as much TV either. I wonder what they do to get their kids out the door?
All alone in my home, my mind racing to compare every single thing I do to the superior efforts of all the other people in the world I know or only imagine.
As a mother, I am also on the lookout for how my daughter is doing. Is she doing better than the other kids? Is she behind? Should I be proud or worried?
It’s not like I think this is awesome. I kinda know better than to compare myself and my daughter to other people’s standards. And I kinda don’t. Because if I don’t compare myself to other people, who else should I compare myself to?
The other day a friend said to me: “Comparison is an act of violence against yourself.”
Fantastic. I’m even doing that wrong. Now I can laugh at myself. Because I know the right sort of comparison and the wrong kind.
I struggle with accepting my daughter exactly the way she is, because it can embarrass, infuriate or inconvenience me. Yet I also do accept her, and love every infuriating bone in her body. She redefines perfect.
And the right sort of comparison is comparing how I regard my daughter and how I regard myself.
I want to love my daughter unconditionally. Not because someone said that I should but because it is my standard for myself. And my definition of unconditional is that she is perfect. Not that she’s never wrong. She will make mistakes and she will grow and learn and become different things throughout her life. All of which are well within the range of perfect.
I do not regard myself with that kind of love and mercy. And if I can’t give myself room to make mistakes and grow without condemning myself I can’t do it for her. Which is unacceptable.
Comparison of myself to some standard that others have placed on me, I can see how that takes me away from unconditional acceptance. If I beat myself up for not trying hard enough or not knowing enough, I use mental energy that could be used to do better.
I am thinking of a phrase: sui generis. It means one of a kind, and my college professors used it to describe a piece of art that was new under the sun. Like Joyce’s Ulysses, Pablo Picasso’s work, or Albert Einstein’s theories. Where did these original creations come from? Comparison is mostly a distraction to appreciation.
I think about that when I look at my child. She is her own creation, nobody else like her.
And we are all children. Every one of us is our unique. Truly a new thing on the earth. Striving to meet a standard of comparison is harmful to unique expression. I want to stop comparing myself to the wrong things.
For me, that is a far higher goal than the perfectly balanced lunch.