Is a question I’m sure, as Mums (or Dads), we’ve all asked ourselves at some point. This has hit me particularly hard lately.
A few weeks ago we had Noah’s Parents Evening. I know it sounds bizarre right? A Parents Evening for a not even 2 year old? But actually they are pretty useful. The Nursery have them to update the parents on their child’s progress and we get to look through Noah’s “book” which shows said progress as well as some lovely photographs of what he gets up to at Nursery.
At this particular Parents Evening all was going pretty well, they said his motor skills are really good, his social skills have improved, the only thing they said that he is behind in is his speech. To be honest I wasn’t really surprised by this. I’d noticed that he didn’t seem as far along in his speech as other toddlers his age but it didn’t really bother me till I saw it there in his book in black and white. At this point he was 22 months old but, according to them, his speech level was more around that of a 16-18 month old. Not a huge difference but when you’re told your child is behind in something, it feels a big deal.
And I felt instant guilt. The first thought to enter my head was “is it my fault?”. Have we not talked to him enough? Have we let him watch too much TV? Have we not read to him enough? Is there some way I have held him back? Deep down, however, I know that we have tried our best to help him along. We talk to him all the time. I try my best to ask him questions as we do things, talk through what we’re doing etc. Admittedly at times I forget but heck I’m only human. I read to him every night but maybe I should be reading more with him in the day too? He does watch a fair bit of TV I confess. Normally Cbeebies or Disney movies. But often it’s background noise as he plays. There will be some shows he pays attention to but I’d argue he’s learnt some bits off them too! I caught him mimicking signs from Something Special the other day! We’ve also been doing flash cards with him which he loves. I got a “first words” pack from Dorling Kindersley and I love them because they show actual photos of the objects rather than just cartoons. He recognises most of them now and can say a number of them really clearly. But others he is struggling with. You can tell he knows what it is but he can’t quite form the word.
He can say a fair few words now. “Hi” “Hayo” (Hello) “Bye” “Yes” “No” “Mummy” “Daddy” “Milk” “Peas” (Please) “Ta” “Potty” “Beebies” “Elsa” “Dancing” “Ball” “More” “Bubbles” etc are all words he can say without too much bother. I’m sure there are quite a few more than that but those are the first that spring to mind. However he doesn’t really form sentences yet and some simple words like “Cat” and “Dog” he struggles with. I am noticing some progress though. Like the other day he said “Get Down” when he wanted to come down from his chair which took me aback as I hadn’t really heard him put together two words much before. So I definitely think he’s moving forwards, it’s just taking him a little longer than some children.
But then he was always way stronger with motor skills than communication, even as a baby. He crawled from 6 months, could feed himself with a spoon before he was even a year old and, for the last year, has been very confidently feeding himself. Nursery even tell me that lately he’s been practising threading raw spaghetti into small holes which I think is pretty cool for a child not even quite 2 yet.
I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is. Maybe to reassure myself that he’s doing ok, that I’m not letting him down, who knows? I think a lot of my feelings stem from my battle with depression. There were definite points at my worst where I felt like I could have done more in my parenting. Don’t get me wrong, Noah was well looked after, cared for and happy but there were moments when I felt I lacked the energy to really give it my all in terms of teaching him and playing with him. It doesn’t help that he’s always loved to amuse himself and can be fiercely independent in wanting to do things alone, even at this young age. But I have felt so guilty about it. And wondered if I had not been so absorbed in my mental health, would he be behind now?
But I could spend forever and a day beating myself up over it. The truth is, none of us are perfect. We all have days where we think “I could have done better today”. But there were also many many days where I gave and do give it my all. I’d take him to the park, do painting, invent games etc and do as much as I could to stimulate him and help him learn. Do some off days make me a bad Mum? No they don’t. They make me human.
So my answer to my original question is, No. I don’t think I have failed my child. If he does turn out to have a speech delay then it’s most likely one of those things and he will catch up eventually. And in other areas he is doing very well indeed. So it balances out. And perhaps it’s unfair on him and me to keep comparing him to others anyway. He’s developing and learning at his own pace and it’s all amazing. In fact it’s my favourite thing about this age, watching them learn new things and grow and develop.
So let’s take the pressure off, stop worrying that we’re not doing enough and just enjoy our children whilst they’re still young.