The playground is fraught with danger. Not so much the danger of falling off of a swing or getting mulch in T's cornrows (seriously though, the mulch struggle is real). It's a sneakier, more dangerous danger.
It happens anytime (anytime) a group of moms and kids gather, because it's how we get to know each other, hear about one another's lives. We discuss ages, birth order, milestones. And then the internal dialogue often begins even while we are still tying shoelaces and passing out goldfish crackers. We start to compare stats and draw conclusions.
It's an easy trap for me to fall into as the parent of a child with some extra challenges. While I can focus on how far she's come at home and celebrate the wins we are seeing, the temptation to compare her current abilities to other kids who haven't had the same challenges looms large when they are playing side-by-side. In the past, I've also been the mom at the park with a kid who is ahead of peers in a lot of areas - and I left feeling, well, pretty smug.
It wasn't pretty in either case.
But you know what? This isn't just a danger for moms of young kids watching for milestones and new skill development. It's a danger for all of us.
It's natural to do, because it's how we get to know each other, how we hear about one another's lives. We talk about our marriages, our homes, our families, our work, our activities, our interests. And the internal dialogue begins. Sometimes we weigh ourselves in the balance and come out looking worse than our peers and feeling defeated. Sometimes we compare ourselves and feel pretty good.
Obviously this is far bigger than moms and kids. People in ministry compare programming and attendance. Homeschoolers compare curriculum and achievements. Book lovers compare reading lists and books read for the year. And on and on it goes.
Comparison sneaks into our minds constantly, and whether we leave overly critical of ourselves, or overly critical of others, it's equally ugly. And it's equally crippling and damaging to our souls. Whether I gaze into a mirror all day and think critical thoughts of my appearance, or gaze all day with vanity and self-love, I still spent the whole day consumed with my own reflection.
...it is not Humility to think ill of ourselves; that is faint-hearted when it is not false. Humility is perhaps one with Simplicity, and does not allow us to think of ourselves at all, ill or well.” Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
True humility, true freedom from this comparison trap, comes not by thinking more critically of ourselves or more positively of ourselves... it comes from being free from this self-obsession all together. When I ask, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" and the answer, without a doubt, is Jesus. Jesus shines fairer - only then I am truly free.
You see, it's really not about me at all.
He has declared me His child. He has given me freedom and value and a secure identity and eternal hope. What do I have to prove? Nothing. Nothing at all. I can just keep loving Him and being who He made me to be (not someone else to be), doing the good works He prepared in advance for me (not someone else to do).
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10
This girl has absolutely nothing she needs to do to prove herself to me. She is delighted in. Adored. She is His workmanship. Each new accomplishment is an accomplishment for her, and I'm there cheering her on. I want her to grow, to be the best T she can be - she doesn't need to be anyone else, or live according to anyone else's timetable.
And you know what? Those other kids? They don't need to live according to her timetable, either. They are His workmanship. They need to grow and keep conquering new skills and not feel less-than or superior about mastering something before she does.
There is freedom - such freedom - in finding that Jesus is fairer. In discovering that life isn't about us, after all.