“Mom, tie my shoe. Quick! We’re playing tag and I’m ‘it,’” my son breathlessly exclaimed. I quickly looped the strings and off he zoomed. I glanced up to see the look of shock and horror on my sister-in-law’s face. I was unprepared for the words that came next.
“He’s 7, and he can’t tie his own shoes?!” she accused, arms crossed.
My mind raced. What had I done? I had let my son miss one of the obviously crucial milestones in his young life. I was a horrible mother!
“He only has Velcro shoes,” came my lame reply. She walked away unconvinced and shaking her head.
I watched my son happily playing tag with the other kids, and my mind wondered, “Is knowing how to tie shoes by 7 really that detrimental?”
My whole life those so-called “milestone checklists” had loomed over me, taunting me with my lack of completion.
Visits to the pediatrician meant third-degree interrogation.
“Can he draw a triangle?”
How would I know! I just make sure all of the crayons aren’t broken and let him go to town.
“Does he use a fork and a spoon?”
For what? Define “use.”
“Can he recognize any of the letters of his name?”
The only letters I could think of were F-A-I-L.
Doctor visits shouldn’t feel like report card day in school. It was exhausting and I was finished.
I decided right then and there that, while developmental milestones may be useful to alert me to issues, they were no longer going to rule my life.
Being a good parent isn’t about making sure that my child achieves everything on a list (or someone else’s list). It is about raising kids that care. Kids that love others and enjoy life. Childhood should be full of play, imagination, interaction, and joy.
If you are concerned about your child’s development, by all means talk to your doctor, but chances are they’ll say there’s nothing you need to worry about.
So the next time someone brings up one of those unfulfilled milestones, you might recommend they try Velcro. After all, it makes for a much more competitive game of tag.