By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
“Am I mom enough?” This has been the quintessential question on all mothers’ lips ever since that controversial Time Magazine cover hit the stands. After much discussion and Internet chatting, I think we’ve all managed to give ourselves a much-deserved pat on the back and exclaim a collective and resounding ‘YES’! But unfortunately, this profound declaration hasn’t really helped us calm down all that much when it comes to the task of parenting.
I recently took my daughter to the pediatrician because she doesn’t have as many words as she’s ‘supposed to have’ at her age (now 21 months). It seemed as though most of my daughter’s 21-month old peers were in speech therapy for the same reason. So naturally, I thought, “OMG! Everyone is in speech therapy! I must get my daughter some sessions stat!” But then I stopped for a minute and thought, “Wait a sec! Everyone is in speech therapy….hmmmm”
We all seem to have signed our kids up for “The Milestone Race”. We want our kids to be the first to clap, roll over, sleep through the night, crawl, walk, talk, learn the alphabet, count to 100, potty train, read, write, swim….the list is literally endless. And while we know in our hearts that the age range when these things can happen is broad, we can’t help but get anxious when each day of those first formative months seems to stretch on and on.
As in the case of my daughter’s seemingly delayed speech, we’re often comparing a majority of otherwise healthy children to a select few who actually reach certain milestones very early. If every other 21-month-old is in speech therapy, isn’t it safe to say that it’s typical for children to begin talking later on? One of my son’s good friends was imitating multi-syllabic words at 12-months old, so I can definitely understand how long a year can feel waiting for your own child to do the same. We’re all guilty of comparing our child to the ONE kid doing something amazing. And chances are good you’ll do it with your second child too, despite your declarations that you’re ‘so much calmer the second time around’. But rest assured, by the time your child turns 3, chances are good you won’t be able to tell who did what or when they did it.
Our society has a loud collective voice that potentially has the power to drown out all of our motherly instincts. We want to do what’s best for our children and we’d feel way too much guilt if we didn’t act proactively when it comes to what’s in their best interest. But it’s important to keep things in perspective and in context. Many of the books, products and services that moms are bombarded with play into the fear and anxiety that most, if not all, American mothers have when it comes to raising their children. They also take advantage of the reality that children may just need time to reach milestones while taking credit for your child’s natural accomplishments – in other words, was it therapy that helped a 20-month old say the word “bubble”? Or is saying ‘bubble’ typical of a 20-month-old? Was it ‘food therapy’ that got a 2.5 year old to eat pizza for the first time or was it because of the kid sitting next to him at lunch bunch one day?
We all know that getting caught up in the milestone race is not only futile but also unhealthy for our children and our own emotional well-being. But until we all unanimously decide to stop running it, it’s hard to be the one person to drop out. Sure, there are moms who don’t play into it as much as others (I strive to be one of those moms every day), but most, if not all moms can’t help but suspect that dropping out entirely could put her children at a disadvantage. It’s a phenomenon that’s difficult to test and even more difficult to prove.
It’s hard not to drink the Kool-aid and ditch the training wheels when you see a 3-year-old go from the balance bike to a two-wheeler in 2 months. And just try and resist buying a certain infomercial’s product at 2 o’clock in the morning after watching a 15-month-old who can read. And we’d probably have to wire our mouths shut to keep from asking our friends about percentiles after their visits to the pediatrician.
It’s times like these when I remind myself to savor this precious time when my kids are young. I tell myself that there will come a time in the not too distant future when my son will be too absorbed in a book to tell me about his day, and I won’t feel my daughter’s arms holding tightly around me in the pool.
The real question is: do we really want things to come so easily to our children? Inevitably, there will be something that doesn’t come quite so fast, and our children, not to mention the parents, need to be prepared for that and capable of handling that. Don’t we want them to experience the joy of working hard and achieving something and don’t we want to witness that amazing evolution? Cliché as it sounds; the best things come to those who wait.
Then again, my daughter is totally oblivious to my desire for her to talk more. It’s me who is frustrated, not her. So, I’ve done my homework, taken her to the experts. Made sure there are no other health issues to be concerned with. Apparently, she’ll talk when she’s ready to talk. And who knows, maybe I’ll end up getting some therapy sessions in a few months (for both of us ;-). Now it’s time to sit back, relax, enjoy the amazing process of watching my children grow and give them (and me) a much-needed water-break. Why be in such a hurry to get to the finish line? After all, some other kid broke through the tape ages ago.