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The Perfect Playdate

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Jennifer Ginsberg: This afternoon, my son Shane had a playdate at our house with a perfect child. No joke. This four-year-old girl was the sweetest, most gracious little angel I have ever experienced.


"Would you like a snack?" I asked her.

"No, thank you," she replied as she calmly sat in front of the Legos and began to patiently build a house. After a few minutes I asked her if she wanted to play with anything else. "No, thank you," she responded again. "I like Legos."

Shane was on his third meltdown by then because I wouldn't let him watch TV, eat Tic Tacs, or play soccer with his snack of Pirate's Booty. I am used to his strong will and seemingly age-appropriate behavior. I am grateful that he saves his most obnoxious displays for our home, as I am always assured by teachers and other parents that he is respectful on their turfs.

I told myself that this must be the case with this little girl. She probably is a wild, raging lunatic the moment she gets home. When her mom came to pick her up, I needed to know the answer. "Blair was a wonderful playdate," I told her. "She was so easy ... she can come over anytime."

"Thank you," her mom replied, her shiny hair swinging in a perfect bob. She was wearing the sort of outfit that would take me four hours to figure out, and probably commence with tears and a pile of clothes on my bedroom floor. I was wearing my uniform of marginally clean yoga pants, tank top, and baseball cap. "You always look so cute!" I remarked.

"You know how it is ... you need to make an effort. I feel so much better when I do." I noticed that her Tory Burch flats were white and unscuffed.

"Totally!" I responded, smoothing my stringy hair back under my baseball cap. "Is Blair always so mellow?"

"She is!" her mom beamed. "She never gives me a hard time. I am so blessed."

Oh, the insidious, no-win game of making comparisons. I must derive some sort of masochistic pleasure from it. I know better than to pit my child against yours. But I often find myself unconsciously doing this, which quickly leads me down a pit of angst.

Is my child tall enough, smart enough, sweet enough? What percentile is your child in? Is he reading yet? Speaking French? Eating his vegetables? My son walked before he turned 1, but yours was sleeping through the night at 4 months old ... ad nauseam.

Later in the day, a good friend came over to my house. She was exhausted after spending the afternoon talking to doctors about a medical condition her daughter has which impacts her ability to perform some gross motor skills. "It's just hard," she said, "I took her to the park this morning and all the other kids her age were running around. It's like they're holding up a mirror of all the things that Chloe isn't able to do yet."

I chose my words carefully. I didn't want to invalidate her feelings, or offer some meaningless platitude in an attempt to comfort her.

"Try to stop comparing Chloe to other children. It's a no-win situation. You might be looking at a girl who is running around the play structure, but maybe she isn't speaking yet. We are all unique -- we all have different strengths and weaknesses."

As I spoke those words, I realized how easy it is to spot when someone else is engaging in a negative thought process. Of course I do the same thing. My friend gave me the opportunity to recognize this in myself, and make a commitment to stop this pointless and self-defeating behavior.

next: The Supremes
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Heather May 19, 2009, 4:53 PM

Jennifer. Love your honesty and humor as ever—“tears and a pile of clothes on my bedroom floor”—haha!!!)

Equally important, what you’ve dramatized is beautiful. We say comparisons are odious but often forget all the unnecessary pain they produce. You were so right when you told your friend, “We are all unique — we all have different strengths and weaknesses.” Keep up the sensitive, insightful writing—this reader admires your many strengths and the way you dramatically illustrate what many of us feel, helping to break down isolation as only a gifted writer can.

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