Parenting can provide oodles of opportunities to feel regret–if we allow ourselves “to go there.” However, one of my favorite, original self-talk mottos is: “I choose no regrets.” After all, the past is dead, the future is not born. And, as Maya Angelou is often attributed as saying–I paraphrase–We do the best we can at the time with what we know, and, then, when we know better, we do better.
So, this falls into one of those categories–if I went there….Something, that ideally, I would have done differently. I’m passing this on to you, because, maybe you can opt to do it differently than I did.
And that is: be familiar with the stages of typical development when parenting your little loved one. I know that I’m not the only mom who didn’t familiarize herself with these important stages because I heard around me parents who were frustrated—and thinking “wrong”–behavioral issues that I knew through my attachment parenting and La Leche League groups and general love and knowledge of psychology, were typical development.
What I did not know more about was when to expect my babe to walk, talk, and all the myriad of minutiae of development that we take for granted–until and if our child is diagnosed with a developmental disAbility like mine was years ago. I was very surprised, as I began to learn more about my daughter’s diagnosis of autism, that our brain affects our social development. Maybe that “should” be a “duh.” But, if I had of been a little more informed on what even infants do that is considered social engagement; what they do as toddlers; about how they appropriately engage with toys and objects….Well, all of these were signs of autism that my daughter exhibited, really, from the get-go.
That said, it was 1997 then and we didn’t know much about autism. Not like we do now. By 18 months, I was eagerly questioning, but typical of parents like myself back then, I could not get “the experts” to listen. I was willing to partner with medical professionals, but I had no teammates. I have had good experiences of teaming with professionals since then. Knowing what we know now about autism, I would have been a better partner and so would professionals better teamed with me.
All said, it’s one of those odd, bittersweet blessings about having a child with special needs. I do not take your child’s typical development for granted. When something goes awry with a child’s development, parents often realize how very special the work of the human brain and body. What a joy to watch other children learn to walk, talk and engage. I totally get how unique and special and what a gift that is–with truly, no regrets. And that’s because I know that my child is her own unique gift to the world, just the way she is, right here, right now.
So, mothers?! Bone up! Bring out those charts and baby books. No need for obsessiveness and, please, no worry-worry-fear. Just listen to your knowing gut if something seems awry, find that partner in the professional world and, oh, celebrate those milestones big and small! When my daughter hits them, no matter how delayed, victory tastes especially sweet. Development: what a beautiful miracle of life!
Leisa A. Hammett is an author, speaker and an advocate for people with disAbilities, including her 18-year-old with autism, artist, Grace Walker Goad. Leisa was a moderator for MCM and Moms Like Me during the first seven years of its existence. She blogs at www.LeisaHammett.com and she is writing her second book on autism.