Monday, July 28, 2014

3 Distinctly Different Milestone Charts- 1 Mother

I woke early this morning to get some work done before tiny eyes popped open and little hands started grabbing for mommy. I was sitting at the dining room table, typing as quietly as possible as sleeping babe #3 was mere feet away in his pack 'n play. 3 bedrooms- 3 young children- for us this means that one is currently sleeping in the dining room.

I wasn't very far along in my work when I glanced over to the pack 'n play and saw that not only was Eli awake and grinning at me, but he was standing. In the pack 'n play. Where he just pulled himself up for the bazillionth time. He turned eight months this weekend.
My breath caught in my throat for a moment. He is so strong and eager to be on the move. He crawls, pulls up, he is even taking steps. And to be honest if he had been my first child, my attitude would have been all "MY CHILD IS A GENIUS!" and "I ROCK!" and so on and so forth.

But as I stared into Eli's muddy blue eyes and grinned in return to his impish smile, I couldn't help but think about how I've lived through this before. I've seen babies perform milestones ahead of time or on time. I've seen babies perform milestones super late with tons and tons of therapy helping them.

And this morning as I looked at the tiniest, pudgy hands grabbing hold of the pack 'n play to balance himself on his two chubby legs- I couldn't help but think that in the long run, none of this matters.

Don't get me wrong- I am immensely proud of my little boy. He works hard and things have been coming easily to him. I love to see his progress.
But I have learned that milestones do not define a child. The timetable in which they occur say nothing about the person that is in that tiny body.

Early milestone development or late milestone development does not make a child greater or lesser. It just is.

As I stared at the pudgy thighs that my baby was balancing himself on like he was born to do this- I thought of Addison's countless hours of therapy. I thought of the success when she finally achieved this same skill at around 2. I thought of Carter, how his legs were even chubbier than Eli's and as a result it took him to eight months just to start crawling- he wasn't quite yet pulling up to stand.

3 very distinctly different milestone charts- 3 very distinctly different children.

When Addison was born, milestones were VERY important to me. We knew she would have delays, but I was determined that MY child would ROCK THE SOCKS off of those therapists because SHE was AMAZING. She would still do everything shockingly early. She would SHOW Down syndrome who was boss!

And when she didn't perform to my expectations, I was crushed.

She dressed herself and picked out her own outfit. Why yes a shirt can absolutely be worn as a skirt.
But now she is 4 1/2. She is such a big girl. She is full of personality, laughter, and a kind of light that I didn't even know was missing in our family until she lit up our lives. Do I lay awake nights worrying that she didn't walk independently until 27 months? Nope. Do I care that it took her so long to sit up? Crawl? Say her first word? Not even a little bit. She is complete just the way she is. Those delayed milestones are just part of her story. Not lesser. Or greater. It just is.
When Carter was born, I half expected him to come out walking and talking because he DIDN'T have Down syndrome. Therefore- he should rock this! But his milestone check sheet has been average at best. Definitely didn't set any records. And at the time it bothered me. I fretted over his lack of early achievement. I needed him to make up for Addison's lost time! But now looking back on those early days when Carter was a newborn, I smile and think about how every step of his journey was just him being him. There was no rush- no contest. There was just a little boy settling into life at his own speed. Goodness knows I don't know why I wanted him to rush it. Now at almost 3, the amount he climbs and runs adds gray hairs to my head faster than I can count. I kinda wish that his gross motor skills were perhaps a bit less enthusiastic. For his own safety.

He was supposed to be napping. (This is why Babe #3 sleeps in the Dining Room)
I love the perspective in motherhood that time affords. I love that I stare at my 8 month old and appreciate all of these quickly fleeting seconds not because he is performing milestones quickly, but because I am soaking in this Phase. A Phase where I was once tricked into thinking certain numbers were important, but really it's just A Phase in which I can better get to know the beautiful life entrusted to me. A Phase in which new skills are introduced and conquered at the speed the child is ready to accomplish. A speed which really means nothing. It is just a necessary byproduct of a newborn turning into a toddler.

Yes, that is applesauce oatmeal muffin on his face- his favorite accessory.
I am an extremely competitive person, and when I first became a mother, I thought that my child's milestone chart said something about me. It defined whether I was a good mother- if I was teaching well. When my child performed well "YAY I am the BEST MOTHER. LOOK AT WHAT I HAVE DONE!" When my child took longer to learn "What is wrong with me? How am I teaching this incorrectly. Walk little legs. WALK NOW."

Now I say- this isn't about me even a little bit. So I think I can push teeth through faster? That I'm responsible for the exact moment when an impish little person decides they want to take off into the mobility world? That my dedicated flashcards and at home therapy can FORCE a tongue to figure out words? That the obstacle course I designed and coached them through would CONVINCE legs that they should get on mommy's movement timetable?
It's almost funny. Addison- with the most delayed milestones- was taught and coached the most. We're talking 4 therapy sessions a week for 3 years. Eli- with the most advanced milestones (so far- we are still early here)- has been pretty much ignored on all fronts when it comes to milestone development. He has just done it completely on his own (of course watching his siblings for his own private therapy and coaching). If this was really all about ME and My Efforts- these numbers would read quite differently.
Milestone: Learning where ice cream comes from
I have learned that parenting is not about who we make our children into, but rather about how we respond to who they fundamentally are.  How we teach, love, and accept our children right where they are at rather than where our minds wishfully tell us they should be. So much about our children we cannot change. Our response to them? That is the key. The milestone chart has been a big part in teaching me this.

So as I do another day with the added difficulty of keeping a baby safe who no longer stays in one place while two toddlers are flying circles above his head (what? your kids didn't cross "flying" off their milestone charts???) (-; I am equally enjoying my 3 distinctly different children.

It's so interesting to see them at such different places on so many things and yet all be in the exact same place in my heart.

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