I stood still in the Pediatrician's waiting room while keeping a close eye on my happily playing kids. In my hand I held THE clipboard. At first I read and checked without thinking.
Does he respond to his name?
Does he follow simple, one step directions?
Will he point to objects?
And as I checked, yes, yes, yes I felt the familiar ache from the last time I stared at the 18 month check list. I always felt it was kind of cruel for the Pediatrician's office to hand me a typically developing child's checklist as I stared down at my beautiful princess who was already so far behind.
Will he look you in the eye?
Can he kick a ball?
Will he feed himself?
My hand kept checking- quickly. Yes, yes, yes. My mind cycled through so many memories of frustration when I had to check No, no, no, no, no, no and hand the clipboard back to the nurse while fighting back tears.
Does he imitate?
Is his vocabulary growing?
Does he show emotional attachment to certain people?
Does he walk with ease?
Addison always seemed to take a sort of pride in taking her sweet little time getting to these milestones, just now able to do some of these for the first time- at 3 years old. I always felt somehow that if I could check Yes to all of these questions that this would somehow all be easier. That this motherhood thing that held so many surprises for me would then be a piece of cake. I secretly thought that her delays were what made my job so hard. Because maybe if she COULD follow one step directions, feed herself, and walk at 18 months she could help me just a little bit instead of me having to do everything for her.
Remembering that as I checked off half a page of more Yes, yes, yes, I thought back over Carter Henry's last eighteen months. He is very typical; he hits those milestones right on track; he delights in pushing the limits; and he is a lovable, handsome boy.
As I held this same checklist, but with completely different answers this time, I laughed at that past version of my self who always trembled at these checklists- thinking that they meant something. I rolled my eyes that I used to put so much stock in how easy/hard my job was based on when these milestones were achieved.
Because to mother Carter Henry is just as difficult as it is to mother Addison. They both have strengths and weaknesses. They both have bad habits and the stubborn gene. They both can be sweet, horrible, or hilarious- depending on their mood. Yes, Carter Henry DOES follow one step directions and answers to his name and kicks a ball, and imitates all day every day- but all of these things don't erase the difficult that comes with being a mother to an 18 month old.
Checking Yes versus checking No wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would be. Because it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. And it didn't define my children in a way worth remembering.
As I gathered up my small brood to go back to see the Pediatrician, I smiled as that bit of pain in the past slipped away to only a memory. I might be called a special needs mother, but to me I am just a mother standing in the Pediatrician's office trying to finish the checklist before my children run down the hallway/terrorize another child/launch themselves off the chairs head first. The actual material on the checklist? Doesn't matter. I have all the answers I need in the small bodies running down the hall with curiosity and laughter as they push and shove to be the first explorer to that magical exam room (one that is already occupied by other children....of course).