The good thing about other people's children is that they have clean rooms. They always wake up on time for school and they do all their homework without any reminders.
Other people's children tend to have higher SAT scores and lower numbers of cavities. Or at least it seems that way.
Other people's children tend to show their best side to everyone but their own parents. While our own children are rude to us, the children on the team we coach are polite. The children in the store where we buy our coffee are helpful.
How did other people get these wonderful children? Where did we go wrong?
Once in a while, someone might let a comment slip about their own child that is less than positive. We might learn that someone else's child stayed up late doing homework. When our own child does this, we fret about time management skills. When someone else's child does this, we think they are hard workers.
In short, we tend to be harsh judges of our own children. We take their faults to heart and wonder if each flaw is a symptom of a larger problem. If we learn that someone has to rip the sheets off his daughter's bed each morning to get her up for school, we might have a laugh. With our own, we might fret that she will be late to work at some point in the future and not hold a job.
The child who shows up at our door to sell cookie dough for his team might be quite pleasant, but we only need to say yes or no to the dough. We do not have to nag him to pick up a week's worth of dirty socks. We see her name in the paper for an award but not the giant ding she put in the side of the car.
Every now and then, we get a little surprise about our own. Someone will tell us how polite she was. Someone will see him driving carefully or being kind to a vulnerable child — perhaps kinder than to his younger sibling.
It's easy to get lost in the negatives, in the exhausting battles. These are the things that keep us up at night.
No one ever says, "Wait until they are teens. You will enjoy those years the most."
Every now and then we should bring perspective to the things we worry about. We should try to see our own the way we see other people's children.
And, we can be happy with the way others see ours.