Even the Best Parents Make Mistakes

12 Mar

I’d been a little worried about my daughter’s grasp of language; at 10.5 months old, she still doesn’t respond to her name.  She only responds to “Peekaboo,” which she can’t distinguish from “Pickle.”  She waves inconsistently, and used to say, “Hi!” or “Ha!” or something similar while she waved, but that skill was brushed aside when she began teething at 10 months.  There are learning disorders, language delays, and severe ADHD in the family, so I’ve been watching for symptoms so I can begin helping her through any disadvantages and to lessen any frustration she may feel.  I remember that my younger sister couldn’t speak clearly at all as a toddler but could understand words, which led to temper tantrums galore.  My husband is absolutely brilliant, but he can’t focus on a single task or think linearly for long, which resulted in misleadingly low standardized test scores and grades in school.  My husband’s ADD/ADHD wasn’t recognized by his parents or teachers and his grades and test scores were attributed to a poor work ethic rather than frustration, so he was never helped until college when we discovered that caffeine could boost his attention span long enough to survive exams.  If our daughter’s learning style and ability is also atypical, I don’t want her to struggle so long only to be considered lazy.

My mom had gone to a specialist with my sister and was able to help me figure out how to communicate with my baby.  My daughter has recently begun pointing at things she sees, which I’ve been trying to use as a communication tool.  I’d been pointing at people in family portraits and telling her their names, like “Mama,” “Dada,” and “[Her name].”  I’d been hoping that she would imitate me, and would say the names of people as I pointed to them.  My mom knew to flip my idea around which gave some very encouraging results.  My mom had me point to people in photos and say their names, and then ask my daughter, “Where’s [so-and-so]?”  Like most babies, she wasn’t always listening, so sometimes she’d just grab haphazardly at the photo.  But a little more than half the time, she’d put her hand on the correct face, so we’d cheer and clap, and she would clap with us.

Despite my clear memories of my sister’s frustration over her inability to speak, I’d been trying to force a baby to speak before she was ready, rather than checking for comprehension and making adjustments to make communication easier.  I can’t believe I made such a huge error!  I used semiotics and the distinctions between signs and signifiers to argue large portions of my M.A. thesis, but the parental anxieties in my heart had eclipsed the academic facts I know in my head.  Thankfully, my daughter probably has little idea of what I expected from her, and may have actually learned a bit from my botched lessons.  We parents do our best, but we screw up all of the time, without even realizing it.

All of our babies develop differently, but it’s so tempting to compare our own children to others, and then we worry over nothing.  Mine took her first steps before 9 months and was running around the house well before 10 months, while others began talking before 9 months and could say several words before 10 months.  I’m sure that while I’ve been worried about my daughter’s perceived language delay, another mother has seen my daughter and worried about her own baby’s perceived physical delays.  I know that I need to worry less, and while that’s obviously impossible, I’ll try not to let my concerns affect my daughter.  Her newly cut tooth and budding molars are already too much for her to deal with right now!

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One Response to “Even the Best Parents Make Mistakes”

  1. Amber Perea March 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Not to push your worries off but my son has the language and developmental disorder that causes what you are worried about. He didn’t respond to his name until the age of two and just recently began to recognize himself in pictures (almost three).

    She’s still young yet! Language problems, if they present at all, are not even addressed until 18 months by most pathologists. It is so hard to not worry and fuss but if you ever need a cautionary tale to bounce symptoms off of, I’m here for you! 🙂

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