If your kids have aced every early developmental milestone, then you’re probably going to have a hard time relating to this post. I love my three and a half year old twin sons dearly, but I’m not the mom that is going to tell you my kids have checked off their developmental milestones with ease. I’ve filled out countless forms at doctor appointments for my sons trying to remember what they could and couldn’t do depending on their ages, often reminders of how behind in different areas they both have been. It’s something I’ve always accepted and almost expected, they are twins, after all. But I often hear parents either worry about those markers — or brag about them — depending on where their child landed on the charts. I understand why those milestones are important, and they have been very helpful in helping my sons get the diagnosis and treatments they have needed when they have fallen short. But I also understand the side of parenting that has a mom cringing when she hears her kids are behind.
Our Late Milestones and Struggles
I don’t recall a lot about my sons as newborns, thanks to postpartum that managed to fog over my life, but shortly after the fog lifted, I learned my son had two small hiccups in his growth, “Baby A”, otherwise now known has Lachlan, had torticollis. Torticollis is a problem involving the muscles of the neck that causes the head to tilt down, and it is not uncommon in twins. He, like many other twins, literally ran out of room to turn his head in the womb. So we started physical therapy, which was not too big a deal. Until my doctor pointed out it had caused his head to rest one way while he slept, and the back right side of his head was fairly flat from lying in one position all the time. He was diagnosed with positional plagiocephaly, or what is sometimes known as flat head syndrome. Apparently, it affects nearly one in two infants today (47%), with experts recommending that one in every ten babies be evaluated for treatment. You know those babies you see with helmets? The ones I always assumed were dealing with something far more debilitating? My son became one of them. Nothing was wrong with him, other than his head was pretty darn flat and it needed to fill in, so my seven-month old son earned himself a helmet. (And if you ever order the blue helmet with stars design, be aware, it’s actually purple).
Lachlan flew through that, no problem. It was way harder on me than him — he never cared. Five or so months later, he was out of it. In the meantime, I wasn’t aware that we were already behind in other areas.
While my twins were pretty late to crawl and walk, it didn’t occur to me that they didn’t coo or make babies sounds. At their 18 month appointments, both boys appeared to be behind as talkers, but their doctor said as long as they had 20 words in three months, they would be fine. They didn’t. I had a hunch “Baby B”, Luka, would need some speech therapy. I had no idea they would both do so poorly that they would each need intervention right before their second birthdays.
Luckily for us, Lachlan was only in speech for a few months. He basically had chosen not to talk much because his brother didn’t. Unfortunately for Luka, his road is still ongoing. We moved him into Scottish Rite Speech six months after having private speech therapy that had become a large expense to our family. The move was exactly what he needed, and he has vastly improved. While my son is still not easily understood a good amount of the time, he has pulled himself closer to his brother and their peers. It’s been no small feat, and it is a constant struggle that requires expert observations regularly to chart his path. There’s no quick fix, just patience, and often there is not enough patience in the world for a three-year old who is repeatedly telling you something you can’t understand.
Every Child is Different
What I have learned through these somewhat small struggles my sons have had in the larger scheme of things, is that there are plenty of other kids that don’t soar through these early years. I know there are a lot of parents trying to help their kids just get to the milestone, just reach average on the test score, because I have been sitting with them in waiting rooms now for three years. I know the small obstacles I have watched my sons manage pale in comparison to far more serious diagnoses and conditions that other children face — waiting rooms have made me painfully aware of that too.
I do appreciate wholeheartedly the medical community helping us to understand why and when our children need intervention, and my sons have been fortunate to have that as they have needed it. I also appreciate all the parents who have reminded me that our kids will most likely end up okay in the end. If you are finding yourself there as the parent of a young child, don’t despair. Listen to the experts and use their resources if you can. Kids are pretty resilient, and there is something special about watching your child transform when you know it hasn’t come easy for them; those milestones become well worth the wait.