Do you remember the first time your baby sat up? The first time they crawled? Walked? I’m sure you do. Most parents I speak to have crystal clear memories of these moments. I do remember the first time kiddo crawled. It was an agonising wait, full of his frustrations that he just couldn’t make himself mobile. We endured months of tantrums and then finally, relief. A release of energy that had been coiled up like a spring. Kiddo was on the move!
Now it’s common practice to record these milestones, to celebrate them and then to proudly tell your health visitor that they achieved their milestone within the government specified time bracket. After a while, I stopped celebrating the typical milestones. Because all they were to me, was a red light. A warning. This child’s development was not typical.
As he grew he did make achievements fairly similar to his peers. Enough that we could fake it anyway. We could put a face on the fears simmering below, brush off any concerns with “he’ll grow out of it” or “they all develop at their own pace”.
Until kiddo hit the age of two, and the differences between him and his friends just became all too obvious. I’d say I spent the best part of a year pretending that he was just a challenging one year old. That his determination to get his own way (which we now know to be sensory related meltdowns) would stand him in good stead later in life. The things he could achieve with that level of passion and determination! But I knew. Deep down I knew.
I remember the first day a medical professional told me they felt kiddo needed a referral to the integrated children’s services team. Now that was a milestone. For me, and for him. The first time he was seen by a specialist paediatrician. Another milestone. I can remember some of the conversations word for word. Yet the day he started to walk properly? It’s all a blur now.
Today I had a realisation. In this family we make our own milestones. Sure we follow the medical and “traditional” milestone checklist, but only for therapy and diagnosis purposes.
Kiddo was taking a nap this afternoon (a rarity I planned to enjoy!) and as I popped my head round the corner of his bedroom door, I saw something for the very first time. Kiddo had chosen to go to sleep with a pillow in his bed. He’s ALWAYS refused pillows, unsure why. They’ve always been rejected, thrown to the floor, or sometimes even out of the room altogether. But this afternoon he lay snuggly, with his pillow keeping him warm and safe. I won’t forget this milestone. As insignificant and irrelevant as it may seem to others, to me it seems the absolute world. A sight that made me feel warm inside.
So if you’re bringing up a child with additional needs, or maybe you’re a grandparent or a close friend, I encourage you to throw those traditional milestones out of the window. Because they don’t matter. Take comfort and hope in the journey your child carves for themself in this world. Celebrate every tiny achievement, and whilst some will find these insignificant, others will always understand the excitement you feel in that single moment of unimaginable joy.
Thanks for reading,