I always ask Bean, “How was school today?” His response is usually a simple “good, ” but yesterday, he said, “I’m sad.”
“Kevin earned 100 books and I didn’t,” he whined before dropping his chin to his chest.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Bean may not look much like me, but he certainly does act like me. I hadn’t seen his competitive side before, but it didn’t surprise me one bit that it existed. He is his mother’s child.
“You have not read 100 books yet,” I told him. “Kevin has probably been reading since school started in August. You’ve read almost as much in a little over a month. You’re doing just fine.”
He pouted, but was satisfied enough with my answer to change the subject. The evening continued as usual. Before bed, we read two books, bringing his total books read to 71.
This morning, his cheery attitude suddenly soured. “Kevin earned 100 books and I didn’t,” he said sadly.
I sat on the edge of my bed, lifted his chin and looked into the eyes that looked so much like mine. “Kevin started reading when school started last year,” I repeated. “You started counting the books you’ve read last month and you’re already at 71. Seventy one,” I stressed. “Kevin is not your competition. No one is.”
He stared at me blankly. The message may have flown straight over his five year old head, but it’s one that I’ll gladly repeat over and over again, because it’s one that I need to hear over and over again myself.
I’m guilty of comparing myself to others. What usually starts as an innocent search for inspiration or an assessment of my own development often becomes an obsession fueled by jealousy, uncertainty and self-doubt, followed by negative self-talk and eventually, giving up. I’ve abandoned many projects after comparing myself to someone more established led me to believe that I would never reach my goal. It’s something that I still struggle with, but I’m committed to helping Bean avoid these behaviors as he grows older by leading by example.
I get to teach Bean how to shift the focus back to himself and let go of the distraction that is making comparisons. I get to teach him how to acknowledge how far he has come and show him how to celebrate his progress at every stage. We get to support each other to reach the next level.
Instead of asking “how was school today?,” I will ask Bean how many books he read today and together, we’ll celebrate his progress. Before bed tonight, we’ll read at least three books instead of two. Because the only person Bean needs to compare himself to and be in competition with is the person he was yesterday.