One freeing lesson I’ve learned is that every child’s potential pops at their own time.
You may have seen this meme – the photo of popcorn with a message that reads:
“Popcorn is prepared in the same pot, in the same heat, in the same oil, and here the kernels do not pop at the same time. Don’t compare your child to other children. Their turn to pop is coming.”
Comparison is a thief of joy. As a parent, it is hard not to make comparisons. As a special needs parent, that pressure is even stronger.
I remember when we received T’s prognosis in 2016, I felt anxiety over things that I chuckle at now; like Googling what percentile his height and weight were at compared to the average child.
One big thing I worried about was T’s delayed speech at age 2.
We practiced daily with this 100 First Words board book and I was thrilled when he first correctly pointed to all 9 words on the page – a sign his receptive language was improving.
Here we are, six years later, and he is speaking just fine, albeit using colourful language I’d rather he not use!
In hindsight, I wouldn’t change how hard we worked with T. What I would’ve done differently is to ease off the pressure.
As I often write, I believe the journey is more rewarding than the destination.
When one is so focused on the destination and on others on the road, one forgets to live in their own moment and to enjoy the view and the company they are with.
I thought about the early days of working with T on his speech when I recently reflected about his journey to learn to read.
He is behind his peers, but he is making good steady progress.
The hubby and I still work hard with him, including on weekends, but we try to focus on fun now and not put so much pressure on ourselves to have T move up a reading level.
T can sense our anxieties and that, in turn, surely adds pressure on him, which can only deter his enjoyment and enthusiasm for reading.
With less pressure, a focus on fun, and genuine and generous amount of praise, we’re seeing a gradual change in T.
This month, I noticed that when we read to T at bedtime, with no expectations of him to read, he will ask to try reading some sentences.
His face lights up when he reads it correctly. He is not as discouraged when I gently correct a word he’s misread.
I also started to incorporate some of the language building techniques I’ve seen his teacher use during virtual schooling.
I pick two to three words from the book we read and ask T to brainstorm other words with similar start or end sounds – such as dr, cl, pl, sh, str.
I was warmly surprised at how many words T came up with on his own or how he sounded out the word after I gave him a letter to match up with an end sound (e.g. b+orn = born).
I wrote out all the words T created to show him how awesome of a job he did.
We cheer T on after each reading practice, because on days when his ADHD is super challenging, just getting him to sit and finish the work is quite the feat!
When we celebrate his good work and focus less on the challenges, it’s a joy to see how great he feels and the difference in his mood.
So yes, T may have been “stuck” at his current reading level for the last two months, but I’m focusing on his gains and less on the pressure of him moving up one level per month. He will get where he needs to at his own time.
When the focus is on the moment and not on an artificial rat race with others, you open yourself up to fun moments.
When we were reading “Clay Play” below, T said quite crankily, “What the hell! Why is she making so many things with clay?” In other words, he wanted it to end, so he could have free time!
And he did finish the book and did a great job with the word sound brainstorm. So as I promised him, we went to play in the snow.
He found a giant mound of snow in a parking lot and enjoyed climbing up and sliding down.
When we went back home an hour later, T asked to watch a movie with popcorn.
The hubby reminded T that he could make his own popcorn.
I watched him place the bag in the microwave, enter the time and press start – something I never would’ve felt comfortable with a year ago.
As the kernels started to pop, I gave him a high five for his awesome morning and told him to enjoy his movie.