Who said being a dad was going to be a walk in the park? I know I didn’t! But when you have a newborn and it is your first child, what are your expectations for that child? As a dad, you see your child growing and doing things that you think all children do only to see things change when a second child comes along. A difference in their stages of child development.
When the second child arrives and you see your oldest falling behind in comparison or you start to see differences compared to other children of the same age, you ask yourself, “What is going on?” As a dad who himself had moments of being a little less than enthused about anything requiring effort, you start to think maybe my kid is just like me. So, what does any parent do? We reflect on our own upbringing and say, “Well, hey, this is what my mom and dad did to me or with me, maybe I will try with my own child”. The challenge is understanding that your child is not the same as you. As the old adage goes, “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” comes to mind. In my mind, my kid was behaving just like I did. So my kid must be lazy!
The challenge for me was recognizing that my child WAS giving 100% and not seeing the same results because there were other elements impeding her progress. This goes back to the basics of growing from infants to toddlers to a young child. It’s the things that many parents take for granted like learning to walk, potty training both during daylight hours and at night, and feeding themselves. While I see my child struggle with these fairly routine milestones, I am thinking the whole time, “Gee whiz my kid is lazy, what do I have to do to get this moving in the right direction?” When you are trying to move a rock that is heavy you push harder until it moves. This works great for rocks… not so great for kids. Rocks don’t have emotions. You can push a rock all day long and it (the rock) could care less. When you push a child hard and you don’t see movement, you have to understand that you could be doing damage emotionally. While I did recognize this potential problem, it still didn’t fix the problems of learning to walk, potty training, feed themselves, etc. I still just thought ‘man I am that guy with a lazy kid.’ This is where things start to change.
It was during these struggles that I started to really listen to my wife. There was something more going on with our daughter. As with all relationships, there are certain aspects of my story that may be similar to yours. Maybe mom is the one thinking ‘I have a lazy kid’. Or, maybe dad recognizes the issue and mom doesn’t. Every family is different in their own unique way. In my case, I was wrong. Wrong about everything. My wife, Sonia, wondered if it was developmental delays and perhaps even autism. I finally told her to investigate.
During those first 8 years, our daughter could eventually do the basics: walk, feed herself, use the restroom. The problem was.. she did none of those things well. Could she walk? Yes, but in the course of a day she would fall down dozens of times. When I say dozens, I mean D-O-Z-E-N-S. I don’t mean stumbles. I mean full on “DOWN GOES FRAZIER” moments. Can you imagine a camel running full speed from a desert onto a frozen pond? That’s the type of ‘down she goes’! Could my daughter successfully feed herself? Yes, BUT define successful. In order to paint the picture, let’s go back to the 1980 film titled, Airplane!. The character, Ted Striker, developed a drinking problem. His problem was missing his mouth with a cup of water or anything else. While this is an exaggeration of what my daughter had to deal with, the end story was that she wore more of her food than she ate. Potty training, well… daytime potty training involved some accidents but at night? Forget it.
Around the time my daughter turned eight, my wife (the best mom our daughter could ask for) saves the day. We began child development therapy with me kicking and screaming, “Not my daughter!” My wife took our daughter to a child development specialist almost every other day. We began brushing and doing all that we are being directed to do at home: lace boards, counting pennies out by hand, jumping on the trampoline, etc. I remember the moment it all changed. My daughter told me that her ‘body is on fire’. She felt tingling and burning all over. To my surprise, our therapist said that her nerves are waking up!
We began to notice little things that she can now do confidently and successfully. She can really feed herself, tie her shoes, and count coins out of her hand one by one. Using the restroom during the day was not an issue any longer. My wife and I saw the progress she was making but believed there was still more to be done so we decided to try medication for ADD/ADHD. We gave our daughter her first dose of ADD/ADHD medication and she never wet the bed again, unless she missed her dose.
Still, our biggest undertaking was falling down while walking… until age eleven. We had taken a family trip to the mountains along with some extended family of which one of the cousins was on the spectrum. This cousin had not had any therapy intervention and was older than my daughter by about five years. We all decided to take a hike to a mountain lake. The hike while not physically challenging but was a difficult task in length. The hike was on a managed trail but was two miles in length with a mile in elevation change. It took an hour or so to complete the trip up and about half that to make our way down. The moment of pride that still to this day overwhelms me with emotion was seeing my daughter complete the entire trip up and down the mountain with ZERO and I mean ZERO falls, stumbles or stutters…not one! Meanwhile, my cousin, fell multiple times similar to the aforementioned camel.
What advice can I give? Listen to your spouse or significant other. Don’t let pride slow down your child’s development progress. These therapies do work…not overnight but in due time. Even the most skilled athletes with God-given abilities must practice being successful. When your child is not given those capabilities, the practice takes a bit longer. In time, your child will climb their own mountains and show the world who they really are!
If you suspect your child’s growth and development may seem off the mark or your child has been diagnosed with a learning challenge, please contact your friends at PediaPlex. We will asses your child’s needs to help them fully become the best that they can be. Call us to schedule a tour and learn more about our child development center.
Husband to PediaPlex founder, Sonia Kirkpatrick
Father and Biggest Supporter of Megan Kirkpatrick