Monday, March 24, 2014

Addison's Interpretation Of The Milestone Sheet

The receptionist handed me the papers on a clipboard, and I barely glanced down at them because I knew exactly what they said. More importantly, I know what they didn't say.

I carried them over to a chair to sign the ones I was supposed to before the nurse came to get us- still refusing to look at that top paper.

I was just talking about this on Instagram after Eli's last appointment. "These sheets used to bother me, but not any more!" In that moment I remembered that off handed brag, and I remembered why they don't bother me for Eli or Carter's appointments. Because they are hitting all of their milestones. But Addison's appointments are a whole other matter.

I just won't look. I just won't go there. And yet I did. My eyes, without my permission, skimmed across the document, landing on "has a vocabulary of about 1500-2000 words". The vocabulary thing is a sensitive issue right now. Having a four year old with delayed speech but with exceptional ability to whine is extremely frustrating. Having a little girl who is so smart and who has so many ideas of her own but who can't communicate them to us is extremely difficult.

I stared at the sheet. Development: 4 to 5 Years it said. Yup, she's 4. Does she have a vocabulary of 1500-2000 words? Not even close.

I looked up and stared at the wall, willing myself not to cry. It hits me at random moments- her delays. She is such a fantastic person, that oftentimes I live in our own little family bubble and forget that she is different. But here it was in black and white detailing out exactly the many things she is NOT doing and the many different ways she IS different.

That pause was all it took. I felt small hands taking the clipboard from me. In surprise, I looked over at Addison who had decided to settle into the chair next to mine. Holding the clipboard firmly on her lap, she then reached for the pen. I gladly surrendered it. What was she doing?

Gripping the pen perfectly between her small fingers, she furrowed her brow with concentration and set to work. First she drew circles. She has become an awesome circle drawer and loves to show off this skill whenever possible. Then, she headed back over to the center of the paper and practiced her "lines going down". Over and over she drew lines "down" before she proudly looked up at me and beamed at her accomplishments.  Filling the page quickly, she soon flipped it over to its back and continued her penmanship practice- carefully, intently, skillfully.
I watched her work- every trace of sadness gone as quickly as the white paper filled with blue ink.

Where I saw a list of "can't"s- she saw an opportunity to show "can"s. Where I saw discouragement, she saw potential. Where I let myself believe something printed in black and white, she colored outside those lines and created a new purpose for the document that I had been dreading.

And she did all of this without saying a word.

She reminded me why these sheets mean nothing. They don't really tell me anything about my child. They are just words on a page. Delay is in the eye of the beholder. Each child has their own pace, their own set of milestone priorities. My job isn't to compare or to be sad when they don't measure up to a random list. My job to to enjoy the accomplishments that are here.

So I did. I told her that her circles were beautiful, and I tried to get her to turn some of her "lines down" into an A. Before we realized it- it was time to go back for the big 4 year visit where she followed instructions and cooperated like the best of them. When her doctor commented "Wow, she really does understand a lot, doesn't she?" I nodded, smiled, and thought to myself "if you only knew."

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