Those were the words used to kindly tell me that my son isn’t meeting the developmental milestones he should be at nearly 16-months old. His new daycare teacher had completed his 1-year evaluation and slipped it in his backpack.
Consistently Cruising/Pulling Up — Skill Not Mastered
Walking Unassisted — Skill Not Mastered
Saying words such as “Mama,” “Dada” — Skill Not Mastered
Imitating Play — Skill Not Mastered
Initially, I was angry and then, in denial of it all. I had convinced myself that my son just hadn’t adjusted to his new classroom yet, but after the shock went away, I was faced with the realities of what my intuition had been screaming at me for months. My son was behind.
I discussed the evaluation with his teacher, still hoping that there was a mistake, but I knew deep-down there wasn’t. His teacher sensed my sadness and said, “This doesn’t mean he is a failure.”
The words stunned me because I had never thought of my son as a failure. The only failure here was me. For months, I had ignored a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right, but I told myself that “every child is different” and was reassured that “he is learning at his own pace.” When really, I was too afraid to admit that I felt like it was all my fault that he wasn’t meeting the necessary milestones.
I worried that it was because I was induced. Or maybe it was because I quit breastfeeding one-month short of a year? Or maybe it was because I was a working mother? If I was home, this wouldn’t be a problem. Was it because I carry him too much? Do I not talk to him enough? Have I been missing the signs of something more serious?
The answer is simply no. No to all of it. My son isn’t the failure and neither am I. The only failure that would be in this situation is if I didn’t do anything about it.
So I let go of my guilt, anger and denial. I embraced his new teacher and thanked her for the evaluation, for taking an interest and genuine concern for my son’s health and well-being. I started picking her brain for every piece of advice she may have. We visited the pediatrician to be sure he was healthy. We are working on practicing our sounds and currently every animal is an “og” (or better known as a dog), but I’ll take it.
I still don’t have the answers for why my 16-month old doesn’t say “Mama” or why he won’t walk. I don’t think of him as a failure and more importantly, I don’t think of myself as a failure either. If I step back and really listen to what my gut is telling me, I know that it’s not that my son can’t do those things. It’s that he doesn’t want to and I’m learning to be OK with that. I’m learning to let him do things on his own time and stop pushing him to grow up so fast. I’m learning to enjoy the last bit of baby he has left. Because let’s be honest, there will come a day where I will wish he couldn’t scream my name or run through the Target aisles like a madman, but until then, I’ll happily accept “ogs.”