My sons were both born early, Jackson was born at 37 weeks and Archer at 36, so when neither of them were reaching their milestones on the parenting books’ schedule I reminded myself they were early, so their age was a bit fuzzy. Jackson should reach his milestones three weeks later than the books predicted, and Archer got a whole month of leeway. Still, they were missing the target ages for rolling, sitting, pincer grasp, and so on. Well, they are boys and boys are always slower than girls, I hear.
I care less now than I did with my first son, but it’s still weird that they never race to accomplish anything new. Both are mellow and laissez faire about their development. I am learning to take that approach as well.
Before I added a doze of Chill to my parenting style, I would obsess and worry about Jackson. Why doesn’t he roll? OK, he rolled! Why hasn’t he rolled over in four months? Will he ever crawl? He crawled! He’s not even interested in walking. He will never talk! Why does he always forget the number 4 when he counts to 5? (The last one is fairly recent. I’m not always chill.)
The milestone I waited for most eagerly was speech. I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say, what he liked, what he disliked, to hear him say “I love you”. But at his two year well visit, I had to tell his doctor he could only say and handful of words and wouldn’t try new words out when encouraged. He would just stare at us, and I was concerned we had already irreparably damaged his self esteem somehow and made him painfully shy about mispronouncing words in front of us. I was heavily pregnant, as I tend to be from conception to crowning, and decided he should go to school a couple days a week and see other kids his age fumbling with words so he would know it’s completely normal to talk funny as a two year old.
At first, every day at drop off there was a heart-wrenching crying fit, arms outstretched and pleading, promises that we would be together again in a few hours, and even Jackson shed a few tears. I had to keep reminding myself that I was miserably pregnant and not fun and he would love crafts and outdoor time and making friends in no time. ‘No time’ was actually a couple months, but eventually we both stopped crying in front of his classmates and he started feeling more at ease. And then the words started to flow.
He would learn in fits and starts. One week he would seem to learn 60 new words, and the next week he’d stop repeating when we encouraged him to talk. By two and a half we couldn’t keep track of all the words he knew and were very relieved. At his two year appointment, the doctor mentioned the possibility of a speech therapist, so this was a huge weight off our minds.
I try to savor every moment and record things in the baby book (HA) but I know there are some things that will stick in my mind until Jack finally puts me in a nursing home. For example, one of the first things he learned to say at school were colors, and my favorite was orange. “OH-nidge” to Jackson. According to the books, parents should not repeat baby talk to their children, and should instead reiterate “you want the ORANGE crayon?” when he mispronounces words. That seemed like a pretty bitchy response since my shy, sensitive boy had previously been afraid to speak in front of others at all, so I OH-nidged the crap out of that crayon and my mom and I still say it that way, even though Jack now says it correctly.
There are milestones that make parents cry because they remind us our child is growing up and becoming independent. Sitting on their own, standing, walking, feeding themselves. I think between ages two and three it has to be growing out of their first attempts at pronunciation (though there *should* be some potty-training during this time frame, but that’s another milestone Jack has decided is unimportant at this juncture). The first time I heard him say ‘orange’ I teared up a little. Orange? Don’t you mean OH-nidge? No, that’s not a bulldozer, it’s a buhbowzer, remember? Who’s Mommy? I am Mama.
Now suddenly he’s calling us Mom and Dad like some kind of sullen teenager! Mom? Is this a joke? I’m Mama, Mommy if you must grow up just a little. If I only have my two boys, does this mean in two years no one will call me Mommy anymore? I’ll just be Mom, and then “Ugh, Mo-om” and then just “Ugh” for those late teen years. NO. Aw, that reminds me of when Jackson learned to say no, but he said it “nyo” and always like it was a question. Now it’s “NO. YOU CLEAN IT.” Growing up is hard on me.
I have been trying to rush these milestones along to keep time with the books and the
doctor’s expectations, but maybe I care less now because I don’t want things to move so fast. As we discuss the size of family we ultimately want, I get weepy thinking about never having an infant sleeping on my chest or snoring, warm and moist, on my neck. I nuzzle Archie’s neck and whisper “it’s OK if you don’t feel like learning to sit up yet. Once you learn to move around and support yourself, you’ll lose some baby weight and I need to smoosh these folds for as long as I can”.
I am glad that Jackson has blossomed at school and really improved his speech, but I hope he doesn’t grow up too fast. And I hope I can always hear him shyly saying “das a OH-nidge crawn, Mama!”