Two nights in a row now i’ve had to call KLM to brag on my kid. i’ve seen some huge spurts in his development recently – he’s walking across the room, mimicking all kinds of sounds, following direction and generally just communicating with us really well. and he’s so stinkin’ tickled with himself for doing it, which is just out-and-out cute (you know the look… hands tucked under, chin shrugged out, eyes that say, “awww shucks… yeah, it was cute”)
i think every parent brags on their kids (or at least they should – and each should have a friend like KLM who is authentically excited with you), so i’m not outside of normal there. however, in the world of “competitive parenting” it does make things tricky. even if you’re not making comparisons, engaging in that conversation can portray you to be. and it’s extremely difficult not to compare it to your own experiences. i appreciate KLM’s excitment, not just because she knows a lot about development because it’s her job, but because she’s not measuring it to anything but a broad base of experiences – her excitement is not entangled with her perception of her own parenting.
it’s been quite a struggle to watch henry grow over the past year. i get lots and lots of assurances that he will be quite “normal”, that “he’s fine” and that i “worry too much.” those statements might be true (especially the last one), and they are often true about a lot of parents. if it weren’t true about lots of parents, the parenting magazines wouldn’t have anything to put in the articles.
but can i justify myself just a little bit? i think it’s quite a different experience raising a kid who, 10 days after he was born, you were told that he wasn’t “typical.” henry’s hearing loss is nothing like those stories on oprah of “i never thought he’d walk again”, but i’ve never known what it’s like to raise a child without people coming to my house every other week, telling me how to make sure that we’re “on track” and “hitting milestones”. if H develops a new skill, it gets documented and added to records with at least 4 letters acronyming something.
i watched the new fame the other night (quite good if you realize it’s made for a 13-year-old girl); partway through i started thinking about these kids going to an alternative school where the focus was the arts. many of the kids there were quite eccentric. now, being a person with little artistic or musical skill, i get quite jealous. but i started to question myself – how would i deal with having a kid who was, just… different?
and maybe i secretly wanted that for H because then he would be different on the upside rather than the downside. he’d be set apart because of all the talent he has and not the lacking of something else… in this case, several decibles of hearing capacity.
henry really is ok. in the world of issues that kids can have, we’re on the nearly-insignificant side. i do try to keep the big picture in mind. there’s lots of very-normal-ness that comes with this little boy. i will NOT be that mother who demands he get to play his choice of t-ball position because he “has a condition.”
but on the other hand, i know few other parents who are making a priority of practicing their “Ling 6” sounds while playing with toy rings. when their kid hits a big milestone or puts together their first sentance, they’re excited to watch them explore the world in a new way – and not just sighing relief that it did indeed happen in the “normal” range.
KLM told me once that “there’s nothing wrong with henry, there’s just something wrong with his ears” and it’s very true. there’s nothing “wrong” with him. and what if he puts his first sentance together 2 months after the time he’s expected to? this is where i just need to get over (or through) it. i would just celebrate, 2 months later than expected, that my son is experiencing the world in a new way. the point of life isn’t where you fall on the graph, is it? according to miley it’s about “the climb” (can i get some financial endorsements by quoting her twice in one week?). when henry brings home the girl he wants to marry, i’m sure we won’t pull out the IFSP and brag on his age-appropriate development. at least, that’s not the type of mother i want to become.
so, it’s something to work on. we’ll keep doing our ling 6. i’ll keep enjoying it the more and more he mimics and participates. and i’ll keep trying to stop worrying “if this is normal” and i’ll just keep loving on a little boy that brings so much joy just by being who he is. especially when he gets that kackle-like laugh.