On blooming timing

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.

Annie Waddoups lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children. She is the founder of Letters to a Parent and can be reached and annie.waddoups@gmail.com.

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10 responses to “On blooming timing

  1. Beautiful letter. Sometimes it’s hard to wait but it is worth it in the end!

  2. There are so many lessons I’ve learned from being a mother. One is not to compare kids, and that reminds us not to compare ourselves. None of us will learn everything, but all of us will learn somethings in our own unique combination and on different timetables. I like your analogy here!

  3. Amen! Amen! Amen!
    My li’l Jake learned to ride a bike in one day at age four, but still struggles with social skills and language that come simply to most toddlers.

    Keeping an eternal perspective is key in parenting. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I like your thought, “to watch them for clues that they’re ready to grow into a new season.” That kind of sensitivity manifests itself quietly so we parents can prepare ourselves first and be ready when those signs become unmistakable to them.

  5. This was so good, so true. Too many times we get caught up in thinking they have to do things on our timetable. Very wise words, my friend.

  6. I am such an achievement oriented person, that this letter is SO for me. Thanks.

  7. My daughter was a late-bloomer with potty training. Usually I don’t care about being a late bloomer but in this particular circumstance, it was particularly painful. :-)

  8. Pingback: Slowly blooming « Frantically Simple

  9. I totally get this on so many levels. Thanks for the reminder – great one!

  10. I have a sweet little bloomer who won’t ever do the kinds of things that most children do. Some realize his beauty because they know what is inside waiting to emerge.
    Thank you for reminding us that
    “children are bloomers”
    So much of parenting is our faith in our children

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