last year i made this post and this post about unsolicited advice. the past few days i seem to have acquired the same sign for i have been receiving quite a bit of, shall we say, suggestions on what to do and not do with my little one.
i would like to say that advice given by strangers, and even family members, which is contrary to the way rhys and i want to raise e is ignored. especially when said advice is not asked for and quite negative. however that is not always the case. like eleri, i too have a sensitive spirit. i cry at movies (even tv adverts), i laugh easily, i feel a wide range of emotions at the drop of the hat, and my feelings are hurt more often than i would like. being sensitive is good because it allows one to connect and empathize with people in unique ways. being sensitive is bad because it gives one a tendency to take things personally, or worry about what other say/think. and the advice i have been given lately has been bothering me a lot.
e is 16 months old today. and not really talking. i wasn't the least bit worried about this fact until earlier this week. eleri has unbelievable comprehension. she understands and follows instructions better than most adults. seriously. she knows her colours, some of her letters and her numbers 1-10. but she wont say any of it. you can ask her to point to the number 5 or to hold up 5 fingers and she will. but she wont say 5. same with red, yellow, blue or green. but ask to her say a colour. nothing. i thought that was ok. clearly she is understanding things. not to mention the kid has crazy bat like hearing. no problems there. but aside from a handful of about 15 words, she doesn't say much. and apparently she should already be talking. and counting. and saying complete sentences, so clearly i am a bad mother who doesn't spend enough time with her daughter who should promptly be removed from my care and placed with someone else who will have her speaking at the level of a high school senior in no time at all. and that sentence could have kept on going and going and going, breaking even more grammatical rules, creating the largest run on sentence in the history of the world. because that is how behind my daughter is. and that is how bad of a mother i am.
i felt about this big for a good two days.
i spent hours looking at baby websites and reading medical journals. i even called some doctors. i polled friends and thought about speech therapy. i instantly jumped from one extreme to another; not worried in the slightest to thinking my daughter needed to have evaluations and would end up with life long problems. it was so frustrating as i tried to find information because one article would contradict the next. some said not to worry and some screamed panic, your child is disabled! i was in tears by the rhys came home on the second day. 'what are we going to do?' i sobbed. i had ruined eleri.
after many minutes of irrational ranting and raving on my part, and sane counter arguments on the part of rhys, i calmed down. later that evening, i checked my email and followed a link to a well known baby website. it was an article about food. absolutely nothing to do with speech. and the food article said if your child is between 12-24 months you should avoid feeding them whole peanuts, popcorn, and granola bars. grapes should be quartered before being given to the child and meats should still be finely chopped. hmmmm. eleri has peanuts, popcorn and organic granola bars for snacks. she eats whole grapes and chunky pieces of meat.
what it boils down to is this. people, and websites, will always be full of advice. some is helpful and some is not. i am eleri's mother. save rhys, i know her better than anyone else. it doesnt matter what someone else says, i know my daughter. if i wasnt worried before someone offered their outside opinion, then i shouldn't be worried afterwards.
it is a shame that people feel they have a right to compare your child to theirs. it is not right that people feel they have the freedom to say negative and nonconstructive things about the way someone else chooses to parent. every baby is different. every parent is different. and unless you are physically, mentally or emotionally abusing your child, you should be left alone to parent in the way you see fit. i am a big fan of baby einstien dvd's and products. i like the praise baby collection. and i also like peppa pig. (do they have that in america?) e doesnt sit in front of the tv all day, but those videos are great to pop in whilst i am making dinner or in the shower. we have flash cards and word games. we read books. we paint. and if i am really honest, sometimes we just sit on the floor and skype with my friends and family back in america. some days we are productive and educational. some days we make a tent out of the bedspread and play with toys. some days we watch a couple of dvd's and sing songs. some parents may not agree with any of the things that eleri and i do. and thats ok. eleri is my daughter and i am raising her the way that i see fit. other parents may do things differently and it is not my place to judge. if i see you punch your child in the face, you can damn well expect me to say something to you. if not punch you in the face. but save that, you can do whatever you want. it is your child.
the old cliche of 'every child is different' really holds true in these situations. i confided in a good friend of mine about some unpleasant conversations this week and I was able to ask her some questions about her two kids. one was speaking in sentences at 17 months and one is still not saying words at 14. and she is ok with both. another friend has a 19 month old who only says 5 words. and she is not worried in the slightest. yet another friend has a baby who is just barely 18 months and has an incredible vocabulary, but doesn't yet put the words together to make more than 2 or 3 word sentences. every baby is different.
i am not a bad mom. i am a great mom. and eleri is a smart, capable, intelligent, advanced little girl. no, i am not bragging. i am stating fact. speaking the truth. because when we are confronted with negativity and harmful comparisons, it is helpful to speak aloud the truth to remind ourselves of the positives. some people mean no harm, and i am convinced that some set out to tear you down. but regardless of intentions, i am choosing to believe the truth that I am doing the best i can, which is enough. and eleri is just fine.