It's bad enough when a couple second-guesses each other's parenting skills.
When friends suggest "modifications" to your parenting plan, it can be anywhere from helpful to downright offensive.
But really, as a parent, your two worst enemies are: your own self-doubt, and the internet.
At the playground this week, I struck up a conversation with the mother of a little girl playing with my daughter a few feet away. The two kids are in the same kindergarten class.
I expressed that, no matter how much of a handful my daughter can be at times, I certainly didn't miss changing diapers or 3am bottles.
As we concurred about the stages we gladly left behind, the subject of "stage-anxiety" came up.
"Stage-anxiety" is what I refer to as the second-guessing and comparison which takes place among parents at any given stage of child-rearing.
For instance, in this particular conversation, it referred to toilet training, and at what age our children stayed dry through the night.
Both my children were relatively late in completely leaving diapers behind - for my son it was well past his fifth birthday; my daughter beat him by about a year, but still has the occasional accident at night.
Throughout my kids' roller-coaster voyage towards making it through the night dry; I heard legendary stories of premature toilet training - including my own:
According to my mother, my two brothers and I were all 'dry' at the age of two-and-a-half. Wow. What was I doing wrong? How could my kids be years behind? Maybe something is physically wrong with my son?
Being my usual skeptical self, I pressed my mother: "Really. You would put us to bed at 7:30, and - at the age of two-and-a-half - we would wake up dry in morning? All of us?
"Yes." she insisted. "I mean, I would wake you up when I got home from work (as a nurse) at midnight, and bring you to the bathroom, but you never had an accident."
Ahhhhh. The truth shall set your bladder free.
In reality, I wasn't a super-baby; I was a dry, sleep-deprived one.
Similarly, when my son was later than others who were swimming without a life-jacket. My father expressed concern:
"You really have to let him figure it out. I remember taking you kids swimming, and you never had a life jacket."
I actually remember my father taking me swimming. I remember those Styrofoam bubbles rubbing sensitive rashes into the flesh around my biceps. I also remember hanging onto the side of the pool a lot while he swam a lap here and a width there.
I think there is a direct correlation between our parents' failing eyesight in the present, and the drastic improvement in their hindsight. It seems while dollar-store reading glasses help them through the paper in the morning, their memory prefers specs of a rose-colored variety.
The playground mother with whom I was sharing these stories of my fake achievements in infancy, seemed relieved to hear she was not the only one occasionally being told her kids should be ahead of where they are.
Unfortunately, our parents' recollections of their own spectacular achievements in child-rearing only add to our own self-doubt as parents in the 21st century. In the playground, we focus on examples of precociousness instead of noticing the majority of children fit right in the middle of the bell curve. We research on the web, but choose unique examples of extraordinary development to doubt our own ability. We worry that each category in which our child may be a little bit behind may point towards their eventual failure as an adult; each area in which they excel may be a sign of genius.
The reality is, as I pointed out to my dad: "Look, he's 5-years-old, and wearing a pull-up in bed, and a bubble in the pool. What really are the chances he'll be 18-years-old going to university with a diaper and a life jacket?
"I don't know." he answered.
"Neither do I." I said. "But chances are pretty good things will work themselves out."