Words + Expectations

I don’t really know why I expected Maya to be this super-chatty kid by now (15 months).

Maybe it’s because I’m super-chatty myself (and was as a baby).

Or maybe it’s because she’s been blowing raspberries to communicate and babbling since 4 months (and saying “dada” since 6 months) all of which, in my mind, meant she was clearly destined for an early talking future. (I can hear the Motormouth Gods laughing at me now in unison).

Or maybe it’s the fact that she’s been diligently following directions for the past several months, which I took to mean if she comprehends so much, surely she can start expressing it, too. In the words of my dearly-missed friend Jason … “Hmmm … not so much.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why I thought she was going to be headed for the fast track of verbosity. The point is, I really expected her to be a chatty machine … and she’s not (yet).

Yet, being the operative word.

Rationally, I know all children do things on their own accord …when they are good and ready. But I can’t help but feel like she’s somehow “behind” — even though I know she’s just fine. Yes, I realize this  way of thinking probably sounds crazy to any of my readers who aren’t parents (or maybe even to some who are), but that’s how I feel.

That trepidation was exacerbated yesterday when I was reading the BabyCenter December 2010 birth board and someone asked how many words everyone’s 15-month old says. While the majority of the moms said their kids regularly use 5-10 words, apparently some of these kids Maya’s age say 75 words already. Seriously?!

I was incredulous.

Even if I’m generous in counting words outside of her four rock-solid words (mama, dada, dog and uh-oh]) and include “ai” (for “hi”), “gook” (“book”), “da” (we think she means “that” given how she says it) “dis” (“this” — again, we think that’s what she means given context) and “ba,” “lalalala” (singing) and “rararara” … she doesn’t really say a ton. Sure, she babbles a ton and gestures lots to get her point across. But actual words? She’s not really there yet.

Our pediatrician isn’t at all concerned; he said most babies have 5-10 words by 15 months and that expressive language skills come later — meaning she is right on track. He said that by a baby’s 18-mth visit, doctors look for a dozen words. He also noted that since we are raising her bilingual (L tries to talk to her in Spanish as much as possible and she does follow some commands in Spanish) that she might have a slower start but –and here’s the rub — will catch up just fine.

My husband isn’t concerned; he says she is doing great and thinks I’m putting too much emphasis on timelines and that she will develop on her own course — that I shouldn’t worry. To make me feel better, he’ll tick off all the things she can do, to remind me that her cognitive skills are great and that she’s right on course. Which sounds well and good, until the nagging thoughts come into my head of what she isn’t doing…

My mom isn’t concerned; she says Maya is clearly absorbing everything and processing her world. She reminds me that Maya follows directions,  knows what objects are (and how they’re used–receptive language),  shakes her head yes and no, signs, sings and imitates us–all forms of early communication.

And her teachers aren’t concerned; in fact, they showed me yesterday how she can point to each of her friends by name; how she knows their toys and will bring a specific child his/her blanket or doll. They called her “quiet smart,” saying she listens and follows instructions; that expressive language will come. She’s transitioning to the Toddler Room next week and they feel that will really help build her vocabulary. And I’m sure they’re right; it probably will.

But all that said, I’m still concerned. And wish I wasn’t. I hate feeling like I’m looking for a problem when one doesn’t exist, but I also can’t help how I feel. It’s hard to know some kids her age are saying 75 words and she is nowhere near that. It’s hard not to feel worried.

It reminds me of the frustration I felt when she wasn’t crawling or walking … wheres what I should be remembering about that frustration is that it was for naught; she hit each milestone when she was good and ready.

Which is to say, I know once the words flood gates open, we’ll never have silence again (as it is, we barely do — but we just can’t make out what she is saying).

I don’t know when that will happen, but what I do know is I don’t want to create an anxious child by pressuring her to crawl/walk/talk/potty-train/etc. I have to take a step back and realize she’ll do things when she is ready to do them. And I have to be especially careful because I know perfectionist tendencies can manifest themselves in a variety of ugly ways and I don’t want to be the source of my child’s anxiety. My own parents never put pressure on me to succeed or excel; they were just super-supportive and encouraging … and I still ended up with anxiety issues later in life that manifested themselves in disordered eating issues. All my own doing.

So imagine if they’d pressured me in addition to my own pressures? Oy. I’m groaning just thinking about it.

I’m discovering parenting is a fine line to walk. You want to encourage your children to perform, succeed, excel … but if you push them too soon/too fast, you could be setting them up for years on the couch later. I’m all for therapy but that isn’t my goal as a parent.

Raising a happy, healthy daughter is. And, to that end, I need to lay off the expectations. She doesn’t need to be the Doogie Howser of the chatosphere to be a happy, healthy and well-adjusted kid.

And, more importantly, I don’t need to push her to get there, either. After all, she’s only 15 months, at the beginning stages of communicating with words.

I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this post quite a bit as she grows up. It’s hard to change who you are; how you think about things. But sometimes, it’s necessary. Especially when you’re a parent.

For now, I need to take a chill pill and see how she’s doing by her 18-month visit. If, at that point, our pediatrician sees an issue, we will certainly address it. But in the meantime, I need to stop worrying about it.

Duly noted.

How about you? How do you encourage your children without pressuring them and turning them into neurotic, anxious, Type-A nutcases (like myself!)? When did your child/children begin speaking?

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10 thoughts on “Words + Expectations

  1. Clearly, I have no children, but you know Miss Maya is my girl. I think she’ll surprise you when she does get going on the talking.

    (I practiced for quite a while when no one was around when I was Maya’s age. My mom would catch me practicing every once in a while sneaking into the room when I thought I was alone. Even then, it was just my nature to want it to be exactly right before I said anything publicly.)

    1. LOL, I know she is!! 🙂 My mom said that was her — she was pretty much silent and then all of a sudden, an explosion of words. Awww … that’s too cute! Isn’t it funny how certain personality traits are so innate? She does talk to herself in her room a lot and I’ve always just figured it was babble. I should listen a little closer; you never know!

  2. Hmm, I could add many thoughts to this conversation but instead I will just say: a) people on BabyCenter lie. and b) this is exactly why I’m not having another kid. 🙂

    1. I would welcome any thoughts, but also understand if you want to keep mum. I am sure you’re right that people lie/exaggerate … and I wish I didn’t get caught up in the tacit competition of motherhood. I know it’s a flaw 😦 I don’t want to be “that mom” and feel like (as this post says) I am. Not cool. It’s a shame we feel so much pressure and I don’t want that pressure to be felt by Maya and am worried it will be if I’m not careful. Oy.

    2. Ugh, I had this great long comment written and wordpress ate it!!! 😦

      Anyway…the short version is…coming from someone whose kid had NO words at 17 months, and wasn’t pointing or waving…. (oh, and he turned out fine…)

      I literally have NO idea why you are worried, lady! It sounds like Maya is completely FINE! Why are you letting a few braggarts who probably aren’t telling the truth on an anonymous message board ruin your day?

      1. I’d love to know what you had written!! I know, you’re right … I know. And this weekend she was super-chatty; lo and behold. EVERYTHING is “that!” and “bebe”. Too funny. Murphy’s Law. Mom freaks out and posts about it, baby comes through. Sigh.

  3. I am right there with you. Boys speak less and later than girls, so Nate is “behind” all of the little girls I know around his age. In addition, my sister’s two kids are verbal beyond belief. Her son had over 50 words at TWELVE MONTHS. Her daughter, who’s younger, probably had more because she learned them from her brother. She sings whole songs (memorized) and has full conversations and she’s only half a year old than Nate. I have to work really hard to not actively compare Nate to his cousins all the time.

    I just keep reading and re-reading all of the things that say that Nate has exactly the words he’s supposed to have right now. There was a point, between 18-21 months where he was literally using a new word EVERY DAY for a few weeks. It was crazy. Then it dropped off. But then that list of words that all kids should have by two came out last month and he already has almost every one… so I just tell myself to calm down. And I remind myself of all the stuff he does that his cousins didn’t do at this age – all the climbing and ball-playing, how he nearly has all his teeth (just ONE more to go)… they’re all different and eventually they all level out.

    But yeah, the talking is my sensitive thing, probably because it’s so easily apparent. Anyone who meets your kid will immediately know how well they talk. They won’t know if they can put a puzzle together or climb out of their crib. It’s an ability that’s easily judged.

    1. Oh wow, that’s crazy, Candice! 50 words by a YEAR?! That has to be hard to not compare. And I think what you said in closing hits the nail on the head …”They won’t know if they can put a puzzle together or climb out of their crib. It’s an ability that’s easily judged.” Why do we allow ourselves to judge or our kids to judge? What makes one mom OK with her kids progress (however fast/slow it may be) and another mom neurotic about the same progress? It’s a tough nut to crack and I am learning … Thanks for sharing and reminding me I’m not the only one who feels this tacit competition (esp with moms I’ve never even met! ;))

      1. Yeah, over 50… my sister “stopped counting at fifty.” We always say it’s because she’s a non-stop talker (which she is) BUT… she didn’t talk much until she was TWO. So, proof in the pudding there.

        Excellent point about judging – and why do I care if someone is judging my son/my parenting of him? I shouldn’t… but I so do and wish I didn’t. Definitely a tough nut to crack.

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