Those developmental stages that are posted on every wall of everywhere you take your child during their early years. On the message board of the Doctor’s office. On the wall at the Early Years Centre. An 8″x 10″ piece of paper that constantly taunts us with those milestones that our child may or may not have reached yet. If you are like me, you’ve stopped and read every single one of those milestones and then racked your brain trying to remember whether your child started putting their toys in their mouth at 6 months… or was it 8 months? Jeez, is my child delayed? He didn’t speak with any clarity until he was almost 22 months old. My best friend’s little girl was jibbering away at 11 months. I’m not kidding. Speaking. Clearly. I feel sorry for her, because she was negotiating with her during her terrible twos. How much fun was that???
I would justify the fact that my child was not speaking at the “proper” age by telling myself “he was walking really early” or “he was drawing faces at 20 months”. Why do we need to have a piece of paper tell us that our children are “normal”? Maybe my Grandmother was right when she patted my hand and smiling, said to me “when he’s ready to talk, he’ll talk…. and you’ll wish he’d stop”. Actually, I know she was right. Because as soon as Peanut found his voice, he didn’t stop. And every sentence started with one common word. Mommy. And the sentence could not continue until I acknowledged him.
<I look his way>
<I “mmhmm?” to him>
grabbing my face and pulling me close so that I’m nose to nose with him : “MOMMY”
A typical conversation, I’m afraid.
When school started, I was worried that he would be behind because he didn’t recognize all of his letters. He could sing his ABC’s and recognize upper case letters, but not all lower case. He could write his name, but nothing else. I thought he was well prepared… until I had to go to the health unit one day and saw the “norm” for a child that age is to recognize all his letters, be speaking in full sentences with more than 6 words, and should be correctly using past, present and future tenses. What??? At 4?? Haven’t we maybe started to expect way too much of our little children??
Peanut is in Grade 1 now and I’ve quit reading about where he should or should not be. He’s learning every day, and he’s excited about learning, which tells me that I need not be worried. We read, we colour, he can sort shapes, colour by number (or in the case of this week’s math homework, colour by shape) and speak french more clearly than a lot of adults I know “Hey mom, bet you don’t know what a lapin is.” Of course I know that it’s a rabbit, but it was fun seeing the smarty pants side of this child that was normally so shy and modest about what he had learned at school. Now he is taking pride in the hard work he puts into his homework.
I wish I had just listened to my Grandmother when Peanut was a baby. I would have spent so much more time enjoying the ‘baby’ stage, instead of worrying whether or not he was progressing into the next stage quickly enough. When people say to me “is it Friday yet?” I always tell them it’s a shame to spend life wishing it away, but I realize that with my kiddos, I spent a lot of time waiting for the next stage, instead of enjoying the stage that we were in.
There is no norm. Everyone really does have their own schedule. Grandma was right. Who knew.