Young, old, new or experienced, each and every mother has had the experience of wondering if their child is normal. It's a very difficult question to ask. Most of us keep it hidden in the recesses of our mind as if giving a voice to the fear will make a problem materialize.
Instead we lie awake at night, stare at the ceiling, tie our stomachs into knots and hide our tears. We secretly compare our child's vocabulary with our nieces and nephews. We observe other families in restaurants and silently compare our child's skills with what we see. We even eaves drop on conversations at the library or video store all the while making mental comparisons about what we see in other kids versus what we know about our own.
And it's exhausting.
Is her kid better behaved than mine? Do they seem more advanced? Are they potty trained? Is my child speaking clearer than that?
If only there were a user's manual. Wouldn't it be nice to hear, "Congratulations! It's a boy, here’s his owners guide."? Instead we are on our own. No one is leading us through the different ages and stages. If you've never parented before (and even if you have) you have to learn to how to go with the flow and give yourself a ton of mercy.
Parents must learn to rely on our own skillset and gut observations; an action many of us are uncomfortable with. And why shouldn't we be? Parenting is a hands-on learning process with high consequences. Screw this up and your child will no doubt send you their therapist bill.
There is nothing wrong with admitting you or your child may need help. Nothing. In fact, it is a complete act of valor when a parent bravely raises their hand for help. Facing your deepest worries and fears is totally paralyzing but it is good and necessary.
As it is with any physical ailment, the quicker the sickness is identified the easier the remedy. It is the same way with developmental delays. A child who isn't walking by 18 months is easier to help than if his parent were to wait until age five to reach out for help. The earlier the intervention the greater the prognosis.
Delaying help however can be quite harmful. Children learn skills in stages that build upon each other. Ignoring an undeveloped skill doesn't help. Thinking it will get better with time isn't ideal. Instead, if there is a delay, addressing the problem now helps all future skills develop at a more normal rate. If intervention is delayed you risk causing wider gaps in delays as the child grows older.
Don't believe me? Observe a high school senior who never learned to read in first grade. How well to you think he or she is doing today?
I know it's hard to admit something might be wrong. I know the feeling when your heart sinks so low in your chest that you'd rather die than face an issue. But believe me when I tell you concerns are almost always better to address sooner rather than later. There's always the chance your concerns are unmerited and your doctor can confirm that all is well and developing normally. Wouldn't that piece of mind be better than the sleepless nights and terrible imaginations?
Don't get caught in the awful cycle of wondering, comparing and worrying. Ask for help. Raise your hand. Talk to your doctor or early childhood specialist. The sooner your concerns are addressed the better it will be for your heart and your child's future. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!
This article appears as a part of my Practical Parenting series for The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas a GateHouse Media company. Stephanie Sikorski is a Parenting Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville CUSD and can be reached for questions and consultations at email@example.com