Looking back on my life with my children (who are teenagers now) and remembering all of the ‘stuff’ we have been through, I wonder how I survived it all. All of their illnesses, the social struggles, behaviours and developmental hiccups along the way. Those moments where they made me laugh and those moments they had me in awe. All of the parenting hardships, all of their therapy and all of the joy. I sit here today, with years of insight, about all of those worries I see parents struggle with, today.
Not every parent will struggle with the same issues in their children. Our children are all unique, marching the beat of their own drums. And let’s face it, not every parent parents their children in the exact same way, either. But I know every parent goes through difficult times with their children, regardless of what that may be.
I know for myself, the struggles and difficulties have been many. With both of my children, I have almost lost a full head of hair, had too many sleepless nights, and spent more overnight visits in the hospital with them than I would like to count. Both of my children had medical issues. Discovering a disability in my son, my daughters heart condition, developmental delays in my son, and loss of hearing in my daughter. Gosh there is so much more, but why bore you with all of it.
I listen to parents, and read on Facebook Groups about their concerns over their child’s development, behaviours and social interactions. I have read some very honest, vulnerable stories of pain and frustration. I have to give these parents much credit for baring their souls in a public forum, such as that. But they are crying for help in a parenting world of chaos, outbursts and insecurities. I have parents worried about their child reaching all of their milestones at the appropriate age that medical textbooks reference to what is normal.
I too was there once, years ago. I too worried about my children developing according to the average. I too was concerned for my children’s behaviour. Looking back, I see just how insanely wrong I was to keep referencing those medical books to see if my child was growing correctly. Yes, I said insanely wrong!
No child is textbook development! Not all children are alike. So not all children are going to follow along the graph of development stated in these medical books we keep referring to. Sure, it is a guideline for doctors in testing our children and keeping informed on their well being. But for parents, please stop torturing yourself by reading these medical books as if it were the bible of raising children.
I will tell you, raising my son was as far from that medical book of milestones as anyone could get. My son did not develop according to the graph. He did everything later, much later than any other child. My son did not sit up on his own until well after his 1st birthday. My son did not start walking independently until after his 2nd birthday and he was not fully potty trained until he was 7 years old. Talk to me about worry.
What have I learned from my son? Well, for starters, I learned not to follow that book of milestone achievements the doctor gave me. By the time my daughter came around, which was 5 years after my son, I took that book and tossed it! That’s right. I stopped caring what it told me my child HAD to be achieving by X age.
I learned that, regardless of all my efforts in teaching and guiding my children, caring for them and encouraging them, they were going to develop at their pace, in their own way no matter what. Of course, stimulating your child to learn and grow with books, and colourful toys and music and all that good stuff is only going to help improve your child, I know that. But I stopped stressing at that rigid graph of development.
So what, my daughter was up on her feet running like a boss by 10 months old. Early, holy cow, it was early. I thought she was genius! I thought my child was exceptional. All of the other babies I have ever known weren’t walking until closer to a year old or even later. My son, was over 2 years old, of course my daughter was a shock to my system.
What am I getting at with all of this? Well, my children today are 19 years old and 14 years old. When I look back, it really doesn’t matter how old they were when they reached these milestones. Honestly. They are doing so well and have perfectly adjusted to their surroundings and society.
So, here it is…. Here is the ONE QUESTION you need to keep asking yourself as your child grows and develops….
DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHEN MY CHILD ACHIEVES…….. ???
It applies to all things. Does it really matter when my child achieves drinking out of a big kid cup? Does it really matter when my child is completely potty trained? Does it really matter when my child stops wetting the bed? Honestly, in the vast span of their lives, when they are 19 years old, and living their lives as an adult, how relevant is it when they did what?
Stop stressing over it all. My goodness, cut yourself some slack. I have listened to parents freak out over their 3 year old still using a diaper. Trying so hard to push their child to use the toilet. My son, medically, his mind/ body connection wasn’t ready to understand the concept of using the toilet. My daughter, again like a champ was trained before she turned 2 years old. But then she decided played games about it off and on for a few months, about a year later. But she successfully, well before her 2nd birthday, was using the potty on a regular basis.
Make sure you rule out, with your doctor, that there isn’t something medically preventing your child from achieving their milestones. If there isn’t, then sit back and just relax. They will do it when they are ready, or when they choose to. Stop stressing over things that really are not in your control.
When it comes to behaviours, this is where I say those experts may just have it wrong too. Mind you, there are some amazing suggestions and creative ideas out there in handling behaviours. The key is to just keep trying new ways of handling things until one works.
My daughter was a clever little bugger. She had me turned around in chuckles every time I tried to teach her something. She milked everything for her own good. When she was about 3-4 years old, I was teaching her the bad words not to say. I did this because I caught her using the “F” word, in its context one day, so I felt it was time to have that conversation with her about bad words. Cleverly, she walked around telling everyone what she wasn’t allowed to say, saying all of the words over and over again. She was reassuring everyone that she knew these were bad words and she doesn’t use them, meanwhile she just said them all, about 3x over! So I needed to get creative. I needed to be patient, too. She was the child who pushed her limits, made herself cry on a dime and was faster at everything than the speed of light, just so she could get out of getting in trouble for something.
I read books about how to deal with certain behaviours, mouthing back and reasoning with your child! You know what, the ONLY thing that worked that the experts said to do was 1-2-3 Magic! It worked for my daughter, like a charm, but not my son. My son would smile when I reached 3, then continue counting up to 10. He seemed so proud of himself doing it too. 1-2-3 Magic did not work with my son, but it did work with my daughter.
So you see, you can read all the expert books you want, study the milestones, and do everything as perfect as you possibly can. But I am telling you right now, to save you a mountain of stress, headaches and worry… Just let it all go. Just enjoy every little second you have with your child, the good, the bad and the awesome. These incredible little aliens are going to charm you, frustrate you, and amaze you for their entire life!
When my daughter was going through puberty, I started to stress. All of my daughters friends, except for 1 other, had reached puberty and their female cycles. My daughter still had absolutely no signs of being even close. Those intrusive thoughts started to fill my head… “Is there something wrong with her development?” Then I remembered that QUESTION I used to ask myself when my children were little….. DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHEN MY CHILD ACHIEVES….???
And I mean really, the later she reaches puberty, the absolute better. If there is something wrong, we will definitely know in another couple of years. But for now, she is just going to develop at her own pace, in her own way and I am just going to accept it.
Both of my children couldn’t be more opposite if they tried. Neither of them have developed by the textbook. So stop trying to help your children mature faster than they are ready to. And don’t hold them back if they are ready to take leaps and bounds forward. Keep one eye open, one hand on the ball and both legs ready to run. Do all that you can for your children and then leave the rest up to them.
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