When my son Connor was young, I would look forward to the (very infrequent) checkups with his physician.
I couldn't wait to see how much he'd grown, and I would proudly mark off just about every question on the doctor's evaluation with "always". Yes, he can pull up. Yes, he can say two word sentences. Yes, he can color a straight line.
I'd practically pat myself on the back. Wow, I am such an awesome mom. My kid is amazing.
And then when I began to take my daughter Brenna, who was born with a life-threatening skin condition, in for her regular check-ups, that pride got shoved down my throat.
Those check-marks? They rarely find their way in the "always" category now. The first year of her life, I'd feel like throwing the evaluation back in the nurse's face and saying "She can't do any of these things, so WHAT'S YOUR POINT?!"
I still mark "yes" and "always" for most of Connor's developmental evaluations, and I do mark "never" or "sometimes" on most of Brenna's. But now….now, I don't give it a second thought beyond that simple checkmark.
Because I see every day how much they both are learning and progressing and trying in all different areas. Areas that are important but that the doctor's offices don't measure. Like kindness and empathy and creativity and imagination and respect and building relationships/friendships.
Some things come easier for each of them. But good lord, they are both trying so hard. Every day.
The funny thing is that many of these things, the things that are measured in evaluations, are out of our control as parents. We can't help how tall our kid is, or if he's crawling or talking yet. We can encourage growth, and physical development, and certain areas of learning, but ultimately it's up to our child and the way he or she was made that determines much of their progress and development.
I've begun to really see what my children can do instead of what they can't do. Of course, there is always room for progress in whatever it is that you want to achieve, so knowing your weaknesses is important because you can work hard to make progress in those areas.
But both of my kids can't do a lot of things. I can't do a lot of things. But I also CAN do a lot of things really, really well, and so can they.
And ultimately, what really matters is the act of constant learning and constant trying. No one cares about what you can do or what you know if you're not a nice person to be around or if you don't use those abilities to better the world.
Those check-marks may be cause for celebration, because our accomplishments should always be celebrated. But also realize that there are other things that you can't check "always" or "never" for, and those things are extremely important and worthy of celebration, too.
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