Let me start off by saying that when my son was born, I had no clue what I was doing. (Okay, I still don’t but that’s beside the point.) I read the baby books and signed up for those developmental emails. At the same time, I regarded them with a healthy sense of skepticism because “all babies are different.” I mean, back in the olden days the babies would just play on the mud floor while the grown ups worried about more important things like I don’t know, not dying of dysentery, than whether or not their 6 month old was using the appropriate pincer grasp. I don’t make it a habit of envying a time when you were a successful parent if your child made it to adulthood, but okay, sometimes I do.
I had no illusions of raising a future rocket scientist. At all. I mean, I cloth diapered, and I never got the “genius” Bumgenius diaper because it felt like too much pressure. A diaper felt like too much pressure. Crazy, I know. I didn’t even like the stereotypical “boy” clothes of dinosaurs and diggers. Who knew what he would grow up to be? As long as he didn’t grow up to be an axe murderer, we did our job.
(Son, if you’re reading this in the future and you somehow did become an axe murderer, I’m sorry we failed you.)
I don’t say this because I think that it’s wrong to want certain things out of life for your child. Of course we all have best case scenarios and ideals that we’d like to see lived out. But I say it because people like to ask us what we did, as though we’ve somehow stumbled on a secret formula. We. did. nothing. different. We loved our child. Literally, that’s it. Baby Einstein was never watched. (But Friends is about as close as we get to a religion.) Flashcards were never purchased. (Until my toddler looked up at me with saucer eyes.) There is no magical solution to raising a child a certain way. And trust me, I love, love, love my amazing kid but the grass is not greener.
This is not to say that we didn’t do everything in our power to make sure our kid turned out great. The first baby things we bought were books. Tons of books. Reading everyday has been a priority from day one. We researched each milestone and went about it the best way that we could. It was difficult though, because even some pretty important milestones came early, like starting solids. I know, I know, 6 months. But he was sitting and pulling foods off our plates, biting them and swallowing them and going back for more. Have you ever tried to keep food away from a baby? Impossible unless you’re going to start surviving by gnawing on your own limbs.
We were in survival mode. I mean, aren’t all new parents? But he didn’t sleep. I remember at his first doctor appointment the doctor asking if he was always so alert and waiting for her to say, “Oh wow, well here’s how we fix that. He’ll be sleeping the recommended amount from now on. Sorry you guys have been through so much!” Believe it or not, that never happened. It got to the point where “alert” felt like a curse more than a compliment. Even still, I’m pretty sure I started doling it out to new moms because it made sense- what else were you supposed to say about a newborn? Have you met a newborn?
But looking back he really did have personality from day one. (Okay, maybe not day one day one. We were all pretty pooped.) He never failed to give us a smile or a giggle, but he also never failed to let us know when he was not having any of it. He hated his car seat as though we were strapping him into a fiery torture chamber that forced him to do nothing but stare at the back of a seat. He was maybe 6 weeks old when we had to listen to Christmas in Hollis for 45 minutes straight while we drove home from Calgary in a blizzard because it was the only thing that kept him from screaming himself red faced. I jump when I hear that song now.
We tried not to stress about the milestones. It’s difficult to do, because all it takes is one parent talking about the new thing that their baby is doing for you to start worrying. Our doctor had stressed to us the importance of early intervention, which while it’s excellent doctoring, can make that first year or so freaking tense. I fell prey to it more than I like to admit. And honestly, it never seemed like he was doing anything shockingly early. He was so normal. So as long as he was doing what he was supposed to be doing, why look into it any more than that?
I mean, sure, he loved his books. The only thing that made him as excited as a boob were his books. He would sit in his carseat and “read” Doggies by making all of the different doggy sounds. It was adorable, sure, but so common place that I never even thought to videotape him doing it. It never occurred to me that it might be weird until my mom pointed it out by saying, “You used to do that too!” (At 3. I later found out that I did it at 3. Not before I could walk.) I curse myself though, because it was freaking cute and I wish I could watch it over and over. Babies are just freaking cute.
Looking back though, we were clueless. And I can say with all honesty I’m glad we didn’t suspect anything back then. I mean, yeah, it would have been nice if he had slept but we kept telling ourselves, “He’ll sleep soon. By 1 for sure. Maybe 14 months. Okay, definitely before he’s 2.” It is amazing what denial can do for human survival. I would try to keep our days all nice and quiet and relaxing, you know, sleep inducing, and he hated it. He would scream bloody murder for no reason at all. I started taking him out to as many play groups and library groups and parks as I could. If we were home we would make obstacle courses and forts. I would read to him for hours. It helped keep him pleasant, but it didn’t affect the sleep at all. Not only did he not sleep, but he was exhausting.
Luckily, the hard things about gifted infanthood are pretty universal. The not-sleeping, never-have-a-moment-to-yourself, OMG-SLOW-DOWN-CHILD, may be more pronounced, but it’s still relatable. So when I see articles about “Is your baby gifted?” I mean, yeah, I love to read them; but I still think they need to be countered with, “Why do you want to know?”
I was surviving. I had an amazing support group. It was actually friends and family that pointed out Kaleb’s strength to us time and time again. Because again, amazing support group. But at the same time, everything just feel like more. If it weren’t for that support group and the constant reassurance that I got from it, it would have been a different story. But without that, yeah, maybe I would have wanted to know that the reason my experience was so different wasn’t because I was failing, it was because my experience really was different.