I wish I could tell every mum to stop comparing their child with other kids

Please don’t wish their lives away to get onto ‘the next stage’ (Picture: Sarah Whiteley)

Tottering out of the sandpit, Immy, my scrumptious two-year-old daughter, headed towards me, her little face screwed up in concentration.  

‘Mammy, I need a wee,’ she told me, seriously.  

Four little words that made my heart burst with pride. Ever since my best friend’s little girl of the same age had come round to our house and used our potty, something had clicked in Immy and suddenly, she didn’t want a nappy on anymore.  

My husband Tom and I could take no credit. We weren’t potty training her, Immy was very definitely potty training herself.   

Things had been going so well, I’d ventured to the park with her and her four-year-old brother Theo with her in knickers and shorts. 

So I couldn’t have been more delighted than when she told me, unprompted, she needed the toilet.  

As I called Theo over to us and dusted off Immy’s feet to put on her shoes, a mum sitting next to us cleared her throat.  

‘How old is she?’ she asked, nodding towards Immy. ‘Two and a half,’ I answered, smiling.  

‘So is my daughter,’ she said, pointing out a little one running over to the slide. ‘I’m getting really worried though, she’s not showing any interested in her potty yet.’  

Immediately, my heart went out to her. 

‘Is she your first?’ I asked. I didn’t even have to wait for her nod, because I already knew.  

I completely recognised her concerns and worries. I’d gone through exactly the same ones when I had Theo.  

Having a baby, especially for the for the first time, fills you full of awe, wonder… and nerves. And as you watch their every move, it is incredibly easy to compare them to their peers. See how well they’re doing. Or not doing.  

At first, Theo seemed to be a bit ahead of the curve, rolling, sitting and standing quickly in comparison to other babies we knew.  

It was a constant topic of conversations between new mum friends. Which babies were doing what at what week, whether that be sleeping through the night, starting to wean, beginning to walk.  

All children develop at their own rate and their own speed (Picture: Sarah Whiteley)

I wouldn’t even say it was (solely) competitive. It was also a form of reassurance. Our babies were all OK, developing as they should.   

But gradually, I became aware of something. Theo’s speech. He’d started babbling at the same time as other babies, saying ‘Dada’ and ‘Mama’, but while they all moved on to other sounds and words, Theo didn’t.  

When he was two, I’d pick him up from nursery and ask how his day had been. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting a minute-by-minute account, but he’d just beam up at me and say… nothing.  

I talked to his key worker at nursery, who agreed that yes, he was a bit behind. This only panicked me further.  

I spoke to other mums, colleagues, one of whom had taken her son to speech therapy.  

I told my husband, and we thought about looking into it ourselves. 

But, as it does for the majority of children, it resolved itself. I’d love to be able to tell you what we did – the only thing I can maybe put it down to is being at home with us in lockdown. Maybe.  

Now, he never shuts up. From first thing in the morning, he’ll appear by our bed. ‘Mammy, guess what I dreamed about last night? Mammy, can we go downstairs? What are we doing today, Mammy?’  

He chatters away constantly. You’ll even hear him talking to himself in his room when he’s playing with his toys.  

He still stumbles sometimes over how to express himself and you can tell, there are times when he can’t find the right word. But he’s not even four yet, he’s got years ahead of him to be fully eloquent.   

So when this lady voiced her fears to me and told me how she’d tried several times to get the potty out but with no success, I got to say something to her that I wish I could say to every new mum.  

Please, don’t worry. And please, please, don’t compare. Enjoy them in the moment, and don’t look too far ahead. In no other part of life is it more important to be present.  

It’s such a cliché but they are only so little for so long, please don’t wish their lives away to get onto ‘the next stage’.  

All children develop at their own rate and their own speed. You can’t change that by worrying.  

Yes, Immy may have started potty training before her little girl, but Immy also has Theo in the house, who she watches even more closely than she does me and my husband Tom, and is determined to keep up with.  

When we started potty training Theo, he had no such example. And when we first took his nappy away, he was not impressed. So much so, he actually stopped drinking and over the three days we tried, he only did six wees. Not one of which was anywhere near the potty.  

It was only six weeks later, when we bought a new potty that looked like an actual toilet – the same one a friend had – that he became interested. We made such a fuss of him when he managed it the first time, that he started drinking more…   

And to go back to Immy, it’s not only in potty training she’s been quick – she’s two and a half now and I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t speaking in full sentences. The complete opposite of Theo.  

I don’t know whether that is because she is a girl, a second child, or just… Immy. I like to think it’s the latter.  

But even if she had been a ‘late’ talker or was still in her nappies this time next year, I’d like to think I’d be more relaxed about it and have confidence that she would get there when she was ready.

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