| LifeTakes |

The Evaluation

The most stressful part of well-baby checks is supposedly the vaccinations, but for me, it’s the third degree

“Can he stack two blocks?”

Sweat trickles down the back of my neck. “Um... I think he can?”

The pediatrician clucks in concern before he moves on to the next question.

“Can he go down the stairs?”

“Uh... well... ” Can I get some water, please?

“Does he follow commands? Like, ‘Bring your shoes’?”

“Er... ” Commands? Ha! The only time he displays comprehension is when he hears the word “outside.” Otherwise, he innocently disregards me.

“Does he say, ‘Mommy’?”

I brighten. “Yes!” Finally, one easy question!

I don’t clarify that when he says it, he doesn’t seem to be addressing me.

The most stressful part of well-baby checks is supposedly the vaccinations, but for me, it’s the third degree.

Slightly “behind” is my tattelah sheinz. He goes at his own, unhurried pace. First it was the rolling over. I shamefully confessed to the doctor that no, he doesn’t, then shortly after the checkup he was rolling about. Same with sitting, pulling himself up, and walking. It was always after the appointment that my lazy boy proved himself, always after the doctor mentioned intervention.

I’m familiar with babies. I know that some are mellower and some are more motivated. A few nieces — it’s always the girls — did speak in perfect sentences by his age, but not all. This kid is currently the pampered only child, and he wholeheartedly takes advantage of the situation. It’s not like he has to tell anyone, “Don’t touch my toys,” or “I banged my head, make a fuss over me.”

Also, he refuses to perform. Demand that he wave bye-bye or locate his nose, and he will completely ignore you. He decides the where and when, thank you very much.

I couldn’t dodge the inevitable during our two-year well check, when the pediatrician would no longer tolerate that Baby only has but a few words in his repertoire. His current fondness for barking and neighing does not count as language, and I was given instructions to get him evaluated for speech therapy.

I was a little down at this development. I know, I know, everyone and their mother gets therapy nowadays, it’s no big deal, but even so, I found it stressful. Especially in the Covid era, when therapists will only work on Zoom. How am I supposed to get a toddler to interact on Zoom? When we Facetime relatives, his favorite activity is pressing the red “end” button.

The doctor’s recommendation stoked my anxiety, and I began to observe him worriedly. Is he playing “correctly”? What about his fine motor skills? What are fine motor skills? Is that the pincer movement thingie or something else? What about his gait? Is he pigeon-toed? Or is it just his sneakers? Is it my fault for buying him footwear off Amazon from a no-name Chinese brand that has no vowels in its name?

I hated the fact that instead of simply enjoying my Squish, I was now compelled to carefully scrutinize him for his faults.

It made me wonder.

I am long past the age of developmental milestones. When I reluctantly drag myself to my annual (or five-year) checkup, at least I’m spared the prying inquiries as to my vocabulary and ability to drink from a cup.

But there are other developmental milestones, aren’t there?

Following nearly every interaction with a friend, I replay a comment I mindlessly uttered that, in retrospect, I realize was hurtful. Shouldn’t I have made certain achievements by now? I berate myself. Aren’t I too old for petty insecurities? By this age, shouldn’t I have stamped out specific bad habits? How does my foot manage to get into my mouth, again? I should just stop talking altogether.

And then, Did I say a brachah? I wonder sometimes, and more commonly, Did I say a brachah acharonah?

At Baby’s (thankfully in-person) speech evaluation, they asked all those dreaded questions again: block stacking, stair mastery, and shoe fetching. The client spent the hour stubbornly jiggling the doorknob to the exit, refusing to interact with the therapists no matter how I coaxed. Surprise, surprise, they recommended speech therapy. Sigh.

But the next day, he effortlessly stacked six blocks. He competently scooched down the stairs. True to form, he’s only slightly behind. I know he’ll catch up and be fine.

What of me, however? Am I reaching my milestones or am I behind? Can I know, with my biased self-evaluation? Most important, am I improving, day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year?


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 810)

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