Do you remember the chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy? Ethel and Lucy find themselves working in a factory trying to keep up with a conveyor belt. As it picks up speed they start stuffing chocolate in their mouths, down their shirts, and in their pockets just to keep the conveyor belt going.
The conveyor belt waits for no one.
Does your child fit well on a conveyor belt?
Did you get pregnant when you thought you would? Did the birth go by the book? Did your child roll over, sit up and crawl on schedule? Did she eat every three hours exactly on schedule? These mile stones are debated and compared and discussed as if the precise timing matters. Olympic athletes do not roll or walk sooner than clumsy people. Professional speakers do not start talking earlier than those who mumble or sputter their way through public speaking. Earlier is not always better. Ask a mother of a premie! Babies develop how and when they do. You can’t push it or pull it, you just get to wait and foster the environment and…wait. Rarely do doctors worry about the HUGE range that is considered “normal” development. Very few “normal” children work well on a conveyor belt.
Public educations and societal expectations pull along like a conveyor belt. We expect a 5 year old to know their alphabet and a 11 year old to know their times tables and an 18 year old to drive off to college. Einstein managed none of the above.
Some children click along the conveyor belt but critical aspects of their education are missing. Yet as long as each progress point is maintained, it doesn’t matter. The child may be struggling, the parent may be concerned, but the quality control kicks everything right along.
Does your little bundle of joy fit along the conveyor belt?
What if they don’t? What if your child is exceptional? What if they don’t process the world in the way we assume they might? They could be on the spectrum, deaf, down syndrome, dyslexic or unidentifiably interesting.
Each child is unique. Encouragement, love, support, and inspiration work. But you cannot force learning or development any more than you can force a seed to grow. It is quite likely that success is different and likely better than any expected checklist.
Next time you come upon a milestone pioneer why not enjoy the ride? Why not just ask how the child is doing without a load of expectations as to WHAT the child is doing? Perhaps the child is mountain climbing on the inside where there tend to be very few scenic views and road marks but incredible potential for advancement.
Grandma Moses started painting at age 78. Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing at 64. Mozart composed at age 5. Mandela was 76 when he became President of South Africa. So which of these amazing people progressed on schedule?
Dodge expectations. Stop attempting to make the conveyor belt work. Stop asking other parents how their children match the expectations and start asking what they love about them. The best characteristics: love, kindness, honesty, creativity and hard work are seldom checked along the conveyor belt or discussed in parental comparison competitions.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.