I was at the park recently with my 2-year-old. A mom, who I had never met before, strolled up with her baby. My daughter ran up and said, “Hi baby!” To make conversation, I asked how old he was. “He’s 1,” the mom said, “but he still isn’t walking.” I told her not to worry, my oldest didn’t walk until he was 16 months old. She seemed unhappy with that response and shortly after, she strolled away.
I didn’t take it personally. I know what it’s like to be hung up on a milestone, so obsessed with it that it’s all you think about. Nothing anyone says to you is helpful (so you think). I’ve felt that way about walking and talking with my oldest, potty training with my middle child, and now with picky eating and my toddler.
But here’s the difference: My 11 years of parenting (or 21, collectively, which sounds much more impressive) has taught me that kids will get there, on their own time, with help (and sometimes you have to call in a professional).
Let’s start with my first-born. He always had us guessing. He didn’t clap or point when he should have. He didn’t babble or talk. Every time we went for a check-up, I’d tell our pediatrician. Finally at 16 months, the doctor agreed that we should take him to be evaluated. By 18 months he qualified for three sessions of speech therapy per week. To say that his speech was delayed is an understatement. While all of my friends’ kids were talking up a storm, mine barely said anything at all. He showed unbelievable memory skills, which was fun to show off, but speech was still a really big deal.
It was all I thought about. People would always tell me stories about their brother/cousin/uncle who didn’t talk until he was 5. Inevitably people would tell me Einstein didn’t talk until he was 6. Not at all helpful.
When I would blow out the candles on my birthday cake, I’d wish for him to talk. I didn’t care about anything else. When he was 3, we had my second son. He was an easy baby, which was great, because my oldest still required a lot of therapy and went into a special needs preschool class.
And then, between 3.5 and 4, his speech exploded. He basically caught up to his peers. No one can really explain why. His speech therapists and teachers were stumped. He graduated from the special needs classroom and entered typical preschool.
When he was 7, he was asked to be on “The Today Show” to show off his knowledge of the presidents of the United States. Watching him be interviewed on live television was one of the proudest moments of my life. It’s also something I never would have believed was possible. I remember jumping up and down on bubble wrap with him and his therapist trying to get him to say the “P” sound. I often wondered if he’d ever talk. Now he was telling millions of people about FDR.
Then there was my middle guy. This sweet guy was the easiest baby ever. He nursed and slept like a champ. He was easy breezy. But when it was time to potty train him, it was like he was invaded by an alien from the planet Stubborn. I think he was 3.5 when we finally decided to go for it. He hadn’t showed any interest. Everyone in his class at school was trained. He didn’t care—AT ALL.
He’d go all day long holding it at school (even during nap). He refused to pee in the potty. Then he’d come home and refuse to go at home, and would eventually have an accident. This went on for weeks and months. I couldn’t take it anymore. I cried to my friends. I consulted every book I could get my hands on. Was this kid going to turn 4 and not be potty trained? I was obsessed. People would say to me, “He won’t go to college in his diapers,” or, “He won’t walk down the aisle in diapers.” Again—not helpful at all.
Finally, one day, after he had held it for eight hours at school, I went into the bathroom with him and said, “You aren’t leaving this bathroom until you pee in the potty.” I sat with him and books and toys and my iPad for three and a half hours. Finally he did it. The next day, the same thing happened. This time it took an hour. The third day we came home and went directly to the bathroom and he peed right away. You won’t read about that technique in a book. I don’t care. It worked for us.
Now I’m struggling with picky eating with my 2-year-old. She literally only wants to eat goldfish and crackers. This has been going on for way too long. My sweet girl, who never cried or threw a fit, is having meltdowns every single time I present her with regular food. She goes to bed without eating dinner most of the time.
She’s thriving and healthy and otherwise totally happy. But this time, I’m not going to freak out about it. I’m consulting with an occupational therapist who will guide us in the right direction. When I find myself frustrated and concerned, I remind myself of all of the milestones I never thought I’d see happen with my boys.
It’s hard to stay focused and positive, but I’m trying. I have a feeling a year from now things will be different. I am also fairly certain she won’t be eating goldfish and crackers at her wedding.