Are they smiling yet?
Are they sleeping through yet?
Are they crawling yet?
Are they walking yet?
Are they talking yet?
Are they writing, counting to 100, reciting the alphabet, reading or standing on their heads whilst riding a bike yet?
Enjoy Being With Your Child
Wow! Slow down Mama’s and take a breath. Parenthood really has turned into one big competition on whose child is the fastest at achieving things and I find it so depressing. Mothers are forgetting to just enjoy being with their child and watching them grow, focusing more on the importance of being the first. It’s so much pressure and I can see how it can take the enjoyment of the best job in the world away.
It’s wonderful to be proud of your children, and every parent has the God given right to brag about their achievements. But why compare? Our little humans are unique, they have their own talents, interests and personalities and it’s ok for them to just do things when they are ready. Milestones shouldn’t be ignored, but they shouldn’t be obsessed over and turned into competition either. It’s exhausting to worry that much! Just follow your instincts and enjoy your babies when they are little.
They’re themselves and will do things whenever they are ready.
I want to see my children, really see them. Not just focus so hard on reaching perfection that I’m basing everything on a book, the internet or whatever everyone else’s child is doing. Half the ‘experts’ out there don’t even have children, and they certainly don’t know my children. But I do, I know them better than anyone else ever will. I refuse to compare them to their friends; they’re themselves and will do things whenever they are ready.
As mature adults we need to understand that just because our children learn something a bit later, it’s not a result of our parenting. We’re not better parents if our kids walk first or talk first, and we’re not worse if our children take their time. Have you ever met anyone as an adult and asked them at what age they learnt to write their name? Or at what age they first fed themselves? Of course you haven’t, because in the grand scheme of things it just isn’t important.
The reality is that all children will mature and develop at their own rates, and just because a child does something earlier it doesn’t mean they will achieve more later in life. It’s the understanding, guidance, patience and love of their parents that will ensure they reach their full potential, not pressure and force. The pressure is what will hold your children back, and the feeling that they are not good enough.
Throw Away The Milestone Chart
As a special needs parent, the best thing I ever did for myself and my son was to throw away the milestones charts. Neither of us needed that pressure, and it’s been so wonderful to just enjoy the moments when they happen. And they will happen, many of them already have, and many of them will when the time is right. The best bit of advice I can give to any new parent of a child with Down syndrome is to do the same.
Firstly comparing you child to typical children is the worst thing you can do for your sanity. I understand that we all cling to the hope that our children can keep up with their peers and achieve the same things, but whether we want to admit it or not our children will have delays. I’m not in any way saying that they can’t achieve things, I believe with my whole heart that River will achieve a lot in his life, but I don’t kid myself that it will be at the same time as everyone else.
I’m sure there are things he will pick up easily, and things that will take time and perseverance, and even things that we have to accept he won’t be able to do. I just want to enjoy every single achievement as they happen and not worry about it when they don’t.
And why put ourselves through the added pressure of comparing our children with others who have Down syndrome. As an advocate I am always saying that it’s ok to be unique, that as a society we need to accept differences and treat people equally. So why would I compare River to anybody else and wonder why he isn’t achieving the same things yet? He is him, he is River, and he can just take his time and do things when he feels ready. I have total faith in him and his abilities, and I know that if I offer him the right tools and believe in him, he is going to do just fine. It’s just not important to me that he does things before or on the same timeline as anyone else.
River Was Strong
When River was born he was really strong, where a lot of babies born with Down syndrome are not due to hypertonia. He lifted his head off my chest and looked me in the eyes at a few days old and rolled from back to side at weeks old. I think it’s this strength that threw people off and resulted in him not being diagnosed until 6 months. Anyway, as River got older his development slowed down and the gap between him and his piers became much more noticeable.
It was then that I realized that I’d been kidding myself into believing he was just going to be able to keep up. That he was that unique child with Down syndrome, who would shock everyone and stay right on level with children his own age. But actually, by me comparing him to other typical children, and hoping he would develop the same, I was doing him a huge disservice. Because he isn’t the same, he is different.
And instead of trying to make him the same, and show the world that he is the same as other children, I should be showing the world that he is different and that’s ok. I want to show society that children with Down syndrome are different, and it’s beautiful and acceptable and nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.
And this isn’t just about parents of children with special needs, it’s important that every parent allows their children room to grow in their own time. It’s so easy as a mum (or dad) to become wrapped up in all the things the lists say our children should be doing now, and obsessing that they are ‘behind’ in some areas. My first born son Skyler was the most chilled out and relaxed baby and a joy to be around.
He made being a first time mum with no family support around really bearable, and I enjoyed every moment. But there was no way he was going to do anything first or fast! He was way too happy sitting on the sidelines watching the world go by and all the other babies achieving their milestones. He never crawled, walked at 14 months and had a speech delay until he was 3. And now he is 5 and talks beautifully, enjoys and does well in school, loves learning and is just wonderful. So none of his prior delays matter in the slightest!
The same with potty training. I refused to stress myself out over it and listen to other people tell me when and how I should be doing things. And then by 2 and a half he was totally dry day and night, with not an accident since. I put it down to him knowing when the time was right and not feeling any pressure, he just wanted to do it. I know people who have been potty training for months and months, and it’s all such a big deal. I enjoy the easy life way too much to go down that route!
Follow those instincts you were gifted with
I’m also lucky enough to not care in the slightest what other people think and am quite comfortable in my abilities to make the right choices for my children. Asking for and receiving advice is great, but just remember that everyone is going to give you their opinions based on what they did. They don’t know your child like you do and there is not one way that works for everyone. And it definitely doesn’t mean that if you do things the way somebody else says you should, that your child will do things any faster. You’ll just feel uncomfortable and unsure of yourself in the process. Your children are all the proof you need that you are doing a good job, just follow those instincts you were gifted with.
Stop wishing the days away
As parents we need to take a step back and realize what’s really important, and that is that our children are happy. If our children are believed in and encouraged then they will achieve everything that they are meant to. They will be good at some things and not at others, just like us adults are. Some things will come easy to them and some things they will have to work hard at, just like us adults. We just need to learn that by worrying about the things that our children can’t do yet, we are missing out on all the amazing things that they are doing right now. Stop wishing the days away and enjoy where your child is right now, forget the milestones and love the moments.
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