When I give completely unsolicited advice to parents who are getting ready to have their second kid it goes something like this: “The great thing about the second time is it is a million times easier. You know you have the ability to keep a newborn alive. It really takes the pressure off and lets you enjoy the baby. But the hard thing is you think you have this parenting thing figured out. You don’t. Because every kid is different. You can’t just do the exact same thing. You have to recognize and respond to the needs of each kid individually.”
Pretty great advice, if I do say so myself.
It would be fantastic if I could, you know, follow it.
C, our wacky and cuddly and fearless and frustrated and frustrating C. He is a very different kid from T. And yet we seem unable to adjust our expectations to fit his needs. I worried because he was such a late walker. My expectations were based upon what his brother did-the boys are almost exactly two years apart. T was walking during his second Christmas, so during C’s first Christmas, when he was a tiny baby, I daydreamed about the next year when he would be walking. As we got closer and closer to that Christmas I was more and more upset that C wasn’t reaching the milestone. Why was I putting that pressure on him? His walking or not walking had nothing to do with Christmas or our family’s enjoyment of it.
A year ago I would imagine having conversations with C over this summer. The summer before T turned two he was speaking in complete sentences and could recite his ABCs. C says “bye bye”. He can mimic the number of syllables in a word. He hums the Star Wars theme. He says ball. Other than that his vocalization sounds like Young Frankenstein in the Putting On the Ritz scene. And while it is fucking adorable it is also frustrating as hell.
Months ago our pediatrician told me I should contact the state to have him evaluated if he did not steadily add new words between then and his second birthday, August 31. I’ve tormented myself over it. On the one hand I don’t want to be the panicky Mom who wastes state resources over a kid who is fine. On the other hand I don’t want to do nothing and find out he needs help. After a lot of hand wringing and talking to Z we decided to do nothing until he starts preschool in the fall. His school has a wonderful partnership with another school that works with special needs kids. If he is having a speech delay that requires intervention he will be quickly identified and given help. So we do have a plan.
But why does this delay in his development bother me so much? There are other kids in our extended family who talked late. And you’d never know it today. On his college application he isn’t going to have to disclose that he didn’t talk as he approached his second birthday. Hell, it isn’t going to matter to us a year from now when this is all behind us.
Why don’t I focus on the great parts of his development? He is a master climber. He approaches physical feats with an astonishing lack of fear. He completely understands everything we say to him and has the ability to follow direction.
Part of the problem is the frustration. He is frustrated with us. My Mom smartly pointed out that he thinks he IS talking and he doesn’t understand why we can’t figure out what he is saying. We are frustrated with him. Life would be so much easier if he could communicate with us!
If we are honest with ourselves we gave T tons of more individual attention when he was C’s age. Because he was the only kid. We haven’t taken the time to sing the alphabet song 85 million times to C. We haven’t gone over colors with him until we were blue in the face. We don’t spend ages reading book after book to him. We aren’t the same parents that T had. Because we are juggling two kids. And T is standing in our faces very clearly articulating his needs. It’s easy to respond to them because we don’t have to play 20 questions to do it.
For C’s sake and for my sake I need to chill the fuck out. My worries about his development are a waste of time and resources-two things that are already at a premium. Intellectually I know that I am not helping him. He is his own person and he is figuring out life as a pace that is perfect for him. We need to respect and respond to that.
So do you know what I’m doing now? Imagining next summer when C is potty trained and we don’t have to change diapers anymore. T potty trained a few weeks after his turned two and a half and had it figured out pretty quickly. C will be almost three by next summer. I’m giving him a couple of extra months in my mind.
Because that makes it reasonable….
C and me post workout. Z was taking T to school and little man felt left out. Another piece of the puzzle. Poor kid wants to do whatever big brother does.
The boys have been enjoying our luxurious pool.