Monday, December 12, 2011

My Misguided Quest to Raise "Normal" Children, Part 2 of 3

When I was a fear-ridden new mother, I assessed my competency as a parent by asking one question repeatedly: is my baby normal? Normal was determined by whether he met (or better yet, exceeded) every item on the developmental checklists for kids his age.

For the first year of his life, my oldest child accomplished most of those checklist items right on target, and each time this happened, I congratulated myself for being such a great mother. But the tide turned when his first birthday came and went, and he still showed no signs of walking. A concerned person called once a week to check on his progress, and she always asked, “Aren’t you worried? This doesn’t seem normal. You should get him checked out.” Although I repeatedly reassured this person that my son was well within the guidelines for normal development, I still found myself fretting after I hung up the phone each week.

My anxiety grew, as week after week passed without any signs of my son walking. Our pediatrician examined him and reassured me that he was fine, but even so, I continued fretting. Now, I was no longer patting myself on the back for my parenting prowess. Instead, I worried that my son's inability to walk meant that I was (gasp!) a bad mother. This led to a downward spiral of obsessive second guessing. Had I done something wrong? Not enough tummy time? Too much time in his Exersaucer? Not enough of the right foods? Was it too late to turn things around? Had I damaged my son for life? Finally, my husband could stand this no longer, and he offered a piece of advice I’ll never forget.

“Marlene,” he asked in exasperation, “How many adults do you see crawling down the street, because they never learned to walk?”

“Um, none,” I responded.

“That’s right,” he replied. “He’ll walk when he’s good and ready. So stop worrying so much, and let the poor kid develop at his own pace!”

He was right. Our son finally began walking when he was fourteen and a half months old. Our next three children walked at twenty, seventeen, and fourteen months, and today, they all walk, run, and jump with no problems whatsoever. I learned a good lesson from this experience: my children are all individuals who develop according to their own timetables. It's okay for them to be late bloomers, and this doesn't make me a bad parent!

I’m glad I learned this lesson early in parenting, because as it turns out, our two oldest children were late bloomers, most notably in their language development. Raising them those first few years was a huge parenting challenge that really forced me to rethink the entire concept of normal, as well as its role in my parenting.

In fact, looking back on those difficult early years of parenting, I can now see that God wanted me to remove the entire concept of "normal" from the pedestal on which I had placed it. This involved asking questions such as: what IS normal? Who defines what is normal? And is it really important for my kids to be completely normal?

I'll discuss these thoughts further in my next posting.


1 comment:

  1. YOur kids are great! But every mom I know, including myself, go through these worries more than once in their children's lives. Thanks for the reminder to look at the big picture, and to let our kids be who God has made them to be.
    ~Julia

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