I received a phonecall yesterday from a friend in tears. She couldn’t understand why her son wasn’t sleeping like he was “supposed to”. I sympathised with her and suggested she ask her partner if he could help for a few nights so she could get some sleep and she said she felt fine, she wasn’t tired at all. I probed further and the root of her distress was a mothers group where there had been a lot of discussion about the babies and their sleeping patterns and the fact he son wasn’t doing the same as the others. She and her son were actually sleeping fine.
From the moment our children are born there are expectations placed on them. These expectations can come from ourselves as parents as we watch and hear how other children are developing we feel that our child is not the same. However children, even babies are all unique individuals with different interests, strengths and weakness and just like all adults we are uniquely created. How often are we asked “Does he sleep through the night?” or “Does she still use a dummy?” etc. These questions can come from close family and friends or even strangers at the shops. All of these questions asked with the expectation of a certain answer. No matter who asks it can make us feel like a failure as a parent or at very least start questioning ourselves and our decisions. All too often the parent, especially new parents are left wondering if they are doing something wrong if their child isn’t sleeping well, or isn’t rolling, or still uses a dummy etc by a certain age. I know I did, I spent months trying to fix all the problems before realising the problem wasn’t my child, it was what I expected of her.
There are times when a child needs to have achieved some new milestones, however with something like toilet training, whether your child does it age 1, 2 or age 3 it really doesn’t matter. They aren’t likely to show up on their first date and be asked about it! In the younger years children develop so much and so quickly so when it takes them a little longer to develop a milestone they are probably developing another one faster. I recall when my eldest daughter took her first steps; she didn’t speak for almost a week and prior to that had a very large vocabulary. Clearly there are exceptions to what I am about to say but in most cases there is not a problem. The vast majority of the time the baby or child is doing exactly what nature intended and both he and the parents are thriving in their own way. Some babies need more comfort at night than others, I know my younger daughter does. Some babies are on the move early, and some are more relaxed. I have 2 children, once crawled at 4 months, the other was 9 months old. The funny thing about what is considered “normal” for babies and children is often not the case for the majority and since that is the case, how can it be considered “normal”?
Far too often parents are unnecessarily concerned due what others expect of them and their children. We say embrace your child and all that makes them unique. If you do things differently and it works for you then go for it. In an ideal world these societal expectations wouldn’t exist, however they do but the good news is you can do something about it. You can change what you pay attention to, what you choose to listen to and what you believe. We can support each other in the reality of what is happening and not the “failure” to achieve the other expectations. Move the goal posts; and we may all be a lot happier. As a parent there have been many times that I have been caught up with other people’s expectations of my child. In hindsight I have realised that in trying to get my girls to conform to what I thought they “should” do I have wasted energy and time trying to make my girls into someone they are not. Instead I need to lean on my knowledge as an educator at Little Miracles that each child is an individual. At work we would programme for each child’s individual needs and interests, working out the best way to draw out the gold we know is in each family. Each child was uniquely created and so are my girls. They have reached milestones as different ages. Their personalities are extremely different allowing them to react to the same situations very differently. There is no other child in the world that are the same as my girls. Allowing them to be themselves and responding to what they each need I give them the room to reach their full potential to make their own mistakes with safe boundaries and achieve their own success.