Have you ever been concerned your child wasn't developing on track?
The answer to that question is probably yes. As a mother and a speech pathologist — almost every parent I've talked with has worried, at some point, that their child might not be within the normal range for some development milestone.
As a first time mom and a medical professional, I was extremely nervous for my son to reach each developmental milestone. There were some he hit right on time, some he hit early, and some he hit later than I expected. Each time he was even just a smidgen behind, I would practically panic over it, wondering what I could do to help him get to the next step. I would constantly provide activities and input I believed would be helpful to him. I consulted other therapist friends to get their opinions on his motor and speech development. I watched children who were 'ahead' of the curve interact with their parents, so I could change and modify our interactions to be more like theirs.
One day, while we were "playing," I was very therapist-like, directing our play, and I realized that it just wasn't fun. I had a great activity planned, but he just wasn't feeling it, and I was forcing it. Neither my son nor I were actually having a good time, it was more me trying to push him to attain some silly goal.
So, I relaxed.
Part of the process, for me, has been distancing myself and my child from my career. I know how to provide him the proper input to learn. What I needed to discover was how to give him the time and space to do it on his own terms. Instead of comparing him to friends' children who excelled or developmentally delayed children at our outpatient therapy clinic, I needed to only compare him to himself.
After having my son, I've realized that each child, whether way ahead of the milestones — or with developmental delays — are learning, growing, and doing things on their own timeline. Sure, in some cases, a little (or a lot of) outside or early intervention can be very beneficial, but the majority of children will learn those skills you're so panicked about on their own timeline. And by accepting our children for who they are, and learning to love how (and at what pace) they grow, we will all benefit — the parents and the children.
By sitting back for a little while and actually just observing how my son progressed and acquired new skills, I began to understand who he is. Instead of pushing to get him to the next stage in my own way, I now know how to help him to achieve those goals himself.
And in doing that — as a parent — I've begun to meet some of my own goals.