Sunday, February 13, 2011

When Parents Exaggerate about their Kids

I will always remember Lana's six month developmental check-up. The nurses wanted to check her pincer grip, so they gave her a Cheerio to hold. Lana held it between her index finger and her thumb, but she wasn't using the fingertip of the index finger to hold it, instead she was using the flat part of the index finger. The nurse kept offering the cheerio over and over, and each time, Lana held it in the same way. I could tell that Lana was failing this part of the test - so what was my maternal response?

"She always uses her fingertip for the pincer grip when we're at home!!"

But did I know whether or not that was true? I don't think I had even observed closely enough to know. I just wanted to say "Stop being petty, my daughter is holding the cheerio, who cares what part of the finger she's using - and how dare you fail her!"

I've thought about this many times since this occasion. Probably part of it is my conscience, I typically don't "lie" - and as I observed Lana over the following weeks, I noticed that the nurse was correct, Lana wasn't using her fingertips. Another part of it is that I was surprised by my own maternal urge to exaggerate Lana's abilities in order to make her look better. I've observed this instinct in other parents as well, not just in myself, and I think it's probably pretty universal.

But now that I am the mother of a child with special needs, my response in this kind of situation is completely different. With Lana, my urge was to say "My daughter is advanced for her age in every area. Can't you see how awesome she is? And if you dare offer any criticism, I'll fight it tooth and nail.". With Maddy, my urge is more "I know that Maddy is not like other kids - and when it comes to therapies, she can benefit from whatever help she can get. So where do I sign up?" With Maddy, I think nothing of telling nurses and doctors "Maddy's grasp is extremely poor, she still doesn't do well on her tummy, she can't sit yet and she only can roll from back to stomach in one direction." I know that with their help, Maddy can succeed in these areas faster than without their help.

I'd like to think that I've learned something from having Maddy - and that is, it's not a bad thing to be aware of your child's strengths and weaknesses. And if your child does have weaknesses in a particular area, it's for the best to be honest about them and if help is offered to you, take it for their benefit. If someone (particularly a medical practitioner) points out a weakness that you were previously unaware of, they're not being critical, they're trying to help. So it's not wise to get defensive (and boy, I have a lot of experience with getting defensive - just ask my husband!), the best thing is to listen to their concerns and take them on board.

I was actually in a similar situation with Maddy last week. We were at the Cleft Palate team appointment and one of the doctors asked about what sounds Maddy makes. She really only makes guttural sounds like "grrrr" along with vowel sounds like "oooohhh" and "aaahhh". She doesn't really say much of "babababa" or "dadadada" yet. I've wondered if that could be because of the cleft - although the doctors at that appointment said that it should affect that. It could also be from being socially deprived for four months in NICU - although the nurses did talk with her, just probably not as much as if she were home with us. Or I also wonder if it could be from the laryngomalacia - that affects the voice box so maybe it could affect speech development. But one of the doctors at the cleft palate team appointment said "Maybe she's developmentally delayed". My mothering instinct reared it's head and responded with "With this syndrome, she SHOULDN'T be!"

Maddy will most likely need speech therapy when she gets older, just from having the cleft palate, and so we will be able to deal with whatever speech issues she does have. But I will keep an eye on her speech development milestones and ask the pediatrician about them when we see him on the 22nd. I've learnt now that it's ok to ask for help when we need it, and that sometimes I need to put my mother's pride on the shelf and really look at what my kids strengths and weaknesses are so that I can help them with those weaknesses in whatever way I can :)

1 comment:

  1. Important matters for all parents to bear in mind. And even more so, I'm finding to be able to acknowledge that even if a child "can" do something that is expected of them, if it's causing stress and strain in the child that shows up in other ways, it doesn't mean it's the "right" thing for them to be doing.