Milestones. One might say these are roadside markers measuring distance. Another might think of significant events in life: a graduation, the start of a new job. And still others may define milestones in the context of a baby’s developmental steps. In fact, monitoring milestones is one way to consider the possibility of an underlying developmental issue.
Parents of special needs individuals become used to ignoring typical (developmental) milestones and appreciating their child’s unique and glorious timetable. The CDC’s list of developmental milestones, ranging from two months to five years, focuses on typical cognitive traits as well as social, emotional, and physical characteristics, citing what “most babies” ought to be doing by a certain age.
I’ve never been someone who relies on ought-to’s and shoulds. And when it comes to my child, who officially is no longer a child chronologically, I’ve maintained that our “list” of milestones looks as different from the CDC’s list as does a jungle to the arctic circle.
And that is 100% perfectly okay. Milestones are made in our own time and at our own pace. And we reached a milestone in our special needs world just yesterday.
As we shopped around for a birthday gift at a local plant nursery, I sensed tugging on my arm. Zach seemed anxious about something, but I didn’t know what. As I approached the cashier to make a purchase, I noticed my purse was half unzipped.
Zach tried to zip it, but I needed my MasterCard. So I calmly told him to wait a minute. He was still anxious but obliged.
The transaction was taking a long time. Then, I heard Zach, through his device, say “Please zip your purse.” Wow! Unprompted communication for something on his mind. A milestone!
I got the card back, and then this happened. The cashier told me she needed to try that again (ooohhh don’t say ‘try again!!’) because it didn’t go through. Out comes the card. More tugging on my shoulder. I tell him to wait a sec; he can put the card away again, I promise.
“Please zip your purse.”
Two people in the vicinity state how impressive that was…how cool that device is. (That in itself is like a milestone; we have gotten way too many critical comments about the device, believe it or not).
So, it goes through; he zips. Very mightily – I almost fell over from the force of the zip! Away we went, with me praising Zach for staying patient and telling me what he wanted.
In the parking area, I spotted a clearance table. Anyone who knows me knows I like a clearance table. And behold! I saw a beautiful metal picture frame on a pedestal with a bird at the top. Maybe some people don’t put pedestal picture frames in their gardens, but suddenly I wanted to. And for $8…
Buying it meant turning around though, after a successful episode. Did I really want to try his patience?
One priority I have as a parent is to teach my son about dealing with life’s curveballs; being flexible is key. We can’t always make the path smooth for our children, nor do we want to, right? So I turned us around and saw a cashier “hut” set up outside. We went to it.
Zach began tugging at my purse again. I ignored. I took out the same card. I paid. I let him put the card back and zip up. And then this happened.
“I’m sorry. The card didn’t go through.”
I looked at Zach. He looked at me. I cringed and laughed simultaneously. I took out the card yet again. I expected a display of frustration. I expected to have my shoulder tugged really hard. I half-expected a kick to the shin.
But none of that happened. It was about a two-minute wait for the card reader to work, and Zach stood patiently and quietly. A milestone on top of a milestone.
I let him take the card and zip both the wallet and the purse. He seemed quite content. He also helped me carry the heavy, metal pedestal.
We had independent communication. Patience. Calmness. Flexibility in going back to pay for something else. Kindness in helping to carry something. Not to mention the initial concern that my purse was not closed! Success on top of success.
We hit our own cognitive, social, emotional, and physical milestones yesterday. No, these markers are not on anyone’s well-researched and categorized list, and that is just how I like it. Progress is indeed in the little things, and substance is in the eye of the beholder.
(This blog post first appeared on VestLife.com)
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