"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." - Proverbs 27:17
A few days ago, I read a letter written by my friend's husband (Ruth's husband, Melvin) to her daughter Elizabeth and I am humbled by their wisdom. Here is the letter:
For over a year, I've cultivated a discipline that resists the parenting tendencies I've observed and heard of, ever since I myself was a child... I kept myself from tracking your growth and development, down to the day and week; and then comparing those milestones with someone else's child, or an imagined norm.
It has generally been easy.
I don't know your exact weight - because you're eating well, and you're healthy. I'm not going to coerce you to eat more just because you seem smaller than most other babies your age.
I don't even remember the month in which you took your first step - because I was there the moment it happened, and I remembered everything else vividly except for the time on the clock and the date on the calendar. I'm not going to indulge in any speculative conversation about your comparative athletic potential based on the day you took that first step.
I don't even know how to identify any musical talent in you, and compare with the toddlers I see in the music school I walk past every week.
But there is one conversation that keeps echoing in my head...
How is your speech developing? Why can't you say this word, when I just heard another baby say the same thing last month? Oh, you just said this word... I haven't heard someone else's baby utter the same thing have I?
You see, one of the most apparent signs of a baby's intellectual development is speech, and we celebrate the gift of speech exceedingly. "Ohhh... my little girl can form a sentence before that other little boy. Isn't she clever?"
And it doesn't stop - ever. Even at my ripe old age, people like me at work are constantly celebrating and comparing - the gift of the gab.
But today, I had a thought that just blew me away.
You listen. My dear daughter, you have an amazing ability to listen.
I recall the deep solemn look in your eyes that I see every time mama and I speak to you. And how we're often surprised by how much you seem to understand about the world, and about our lives. You seem to remember the simple instructions we give in passing. You seem to know exactly how we're feeling, and you laugh or cry when we speak of joy and sadness.
We live in a world where everyone talks and few people listen. And I was going to perpetuate that, by believing that the greatest indication of your ability to communicate - was the sheer number of words coming out of your mouth. I was going to think the best thing you can do, to validate your existence - is to talk.
Today I realize what a wonderful communicator you are, in the way that you listen deeply and solemnly (emphasis mine) when everyone else around you is talking."
You see - when we are content with ourselves and we stop comparing, not only are we happier and glorify God, but we start to see a new beauty in ourselves that we otherwise won't notice. And so I am learning, to stop comparing and find peace and joy in what I have.
"One of the biggest gifts we can give our children -- other than our unconditional love -- is not comparing them to others." - Carolyn Henderson