I have a soft spot for late bloomers, all varieties. My grandpa took up painting just a couple of years ago and sends us watercolor treasures, scenes from Italy and France and his hometown. I linger over articles about authors late to the publishing world, taking small shards of hope from their late blooming success.
My kids didn’t get teeth until they were 9 months old and that was perfectly fine with me. Sam’s now nine years and he’s only lost a few teeth. He’s the rare 4th grader with the gappy front tooth smile, up to 5 years later than some of his friends. And Maddy still cherished her doll Emily with the fidelity of a mother, long after dolls had lost their cool for most of her friends. Everything in its time, I think to myself, privately happy to extend the moments of childhood and allow them their own timetables.
That’s not to say I don’t get caught up in the comparing game sometimes. [And yes, I agree that some comparing to the norm is essential to make sure your child is developing and growing (e.g., growth charts at the pediatrician).] It’s tough not to grade yourself as a parent based on the timelines of others. Get a group of parents together and inevitably there’s a little sly comparing. You see the girl down the street walking and look at your own same-aged crawler and wonder when. You hear that your nephew’s reading books at age four and wonder should I start flashcards? Someone in your playgroup pottytrained their 1-year-old and suddenly you feel like you can’t look at another diaper. For us, it was bike riding.
Are you ready for this?
Sam just mastered riding a bike last summer.
Truthfully, we tried. For several years, we took him out and tried. Because WE were ready, because we wanted to check the box next to that accomplishment as done. But he didn’t like it, dug in his heels and refused. Didn’t see the point. You know that saying about horses and water and drinking? Try young boys and bicycles and riding. So we finally took the hint and set it aside for a while.
Eventually, Sam wanted to learn it (I think it was right after he stayed home from the scout bike rodeo). It was time, his time. Finally one week last July, with the aid of a positive and patient dad and much negotiation, he agreed to work at it for ten tries. And then, mid-week, he started rolling his bike out to the front of the house on the sly, doggedly working solo on that tricky starting moment where you lift both feet to the pedals and push. The next day he was zipping around the neighborhood, all glee and I-did-it-ness. In a couple of days, not the weeks and months of earlier efforts.
Children are bloomers. That’s what they do! They bloom–sometimes early, sometimes late, sometimes right on the average. I’m slowly learning to turn the timing over to my kids, to watch them for clues that they’re ready to grow into a new season. Trying to be more of a gardener, less of a train conductor.