My daughter is almost four and a half, and by most opinions and books, she is delayed. It could come from her prematurity, but knowing her and seeing her I know it is just her personality.
She didn't smile until she was four months old. Didn't laugh until she was a year. She didn't talk with more than one or two words until she was two and a half, and then she exploded with sentences. Until three weeks ago, she couldn't count past four without skipping numbers. She still has trouble with colors.
We have been told many times to get her checked and make sure she doesn't have any major issues. I watch her play, I watch her learn, and it reaffirms our choice to let her learn as she goes.
We've seen her play with kids a year or two younger than her and they know more colors and numbers and the other parents look at us like we are doing something wrong or there is something wrong with her.
Talking to other parents, I've come to realize that most parents have become so dependent on milestones, delays, and markers that we have tried to force our children to grow up before they are ready.
When I meet other parents in the playground or at meetings, most ask if she is in pre-school or if she is going to kindergarten next year. They don't ask about her, they only ask about how developed she is or will be. We are so focused on schooling our children and teaching them as soon as we can that we forget they are children.
For the last four years, I've let my daughter learn as she went. I haven't pushed her, and I have sat back as other parents look at her as if she's broken or that she should know more. I've loved her and been there for every need she could have.
Three weeks ago, she sprouted. She changed. She became fascinated with learning the things she didn't care about before. In three weeks, she is now able to count to 25, she can write every number and letter, she can spell her name and write the numbers 1-10 from memory. She now knows different songs and sings them to me. She tells stories. It's like a light came on and now she can't get enough of learning.
If I had pushed her, if I had tried to get her learn all of this before she was ready, I know she would have shut down. She's just like me. I've worried and I've wondered, and now seeing what can happen when you let children learn as they want to learn is just fascinating.
I've always thought that most parents cannot wait for their children to grow up. From birth, we are worried about when they are sleeping through the night, when they are eating enough solids, when we can wean them, when they're supposed to walk and talk. We worry so much about them lagging behind that we forget that all children are different.
My daughter's best friend is thirteen months younger than her. She knows some things better than my daughter and some worse. Watching the two of them has reaffirmed to me that all children are different. My child won't learn the same as my best friend's child. Her child won't learn the same as a sibling.
In a way, it is reassuring that she is able to learn and that she wants to learn. As a parent, you do worry. That's what being a parent is. However, your worry about development, unless there is an issue, should not hamper when they are ready to learn and when you think they are ready to learn.
Children learn better when it is their idea. Children learn better when their teacher, whether it be a parent or friend or a teacher from school, work with them to see what their focus is on. Where they are in their learning. There is no cookie cutter method for teaching a child. There is no set time when a baby or child should be doing something.
We are letting our daughter learn at her own pace. And just from the last three weeks, I know that this was the right thing to do.
Know your child. Know their needs. Know their signals. Don't push them to things they aren't ready for. Just as how you wouldn't enjoy that, they don't either. Children don't all grow at the same pace or stride, and sometimes, we all need a reminder that there is nothing wrong with them because they are a little "delayed".