Sometimes it’s not complicated.
When my oldest started holding the book closer to her face, I made her an eye appointment. When she got a strange rash on her neck, I called the doctor. When she announced she hated reading, I reached out to my teacher friend and asked for advice.
They say it takes a village, and sometimes it’s easy to know when to call on the village for help.
But sometimes it doesn’t feel easy.
When my toddler reached her second birthday and we still couldn’t understand most of what she was saying, it didn’t feel easy. I tried to convince myself that she was only two. That kids start to talk at different stages and that she was still within the “normal” range. That she would talk when she was ready.
But something in my mama brain kept nagging at me, telling me that it wouldn’t hurt to get her some help. That the sooner we got started, the better it would be for her. Still, was I jumping the gun to put my barely two-year-old in speech therapy?
How could I know if my child needed help or not?
The time came for the baby to start solid food. Yet, after a month of trying everything, she still refused to open her mouth for the spoon and every feeding felt like a frustrating wrestling match. Was it supposed to be this hard?
An article I read listed the symptoms of childhood anxiety. Several of them reminded me of my oldest. What do I do with that? Should I just keep going as we have been? Am I making up problems where there are none?
My toddler is painfully shy. Painfully. She hates crowds and new situations. She cries at the suggestion that she should sit at the table with other kids at her toddler art class. She cries when someone comes to our door. Is this a phase? Is this normal “stranger danger” or is it more? Is it behavioral? Sensory? Do I wait for it to pass or push her to new experiences in hopes that it will help?
How could I know if my children needed help?
It felt like I couldn’t.
I guess it never occurred to me before I became a mother that there would still be so much I wouldn’t know. As if the simple act of creating a child would somehow endow me with all the answers.
But it turns out, children are complicated. And raising them is complicated.
And sometimes it feels impossible to know if my children need more help than what I am giving them or if they are just going about the business of growing in their own way.
It’s in these moments that I began to realize “the village” they are referring to isn’t necessarily just for the sake of the children.
Instead, I think it’s for the parents. For the moments when we realize just how much we don’t know. Because the beautiful thing about the village is that I don’t have to know it all. I’m surrounded by people who can help, even when I’m not sure whether I need it or not.
When I talked to some friends about my concerns with my toddler’s speech, they pointed me to an amazing FREE resource for speech therapy. Not only is it helping with her speech, it’s helping with her social skills and shyness. The pediatrician referred me to a therapist to help with the baby’s feeding challenges. The local bookstore carries books on childhood anxiety. A friend at book club loaned me a pile of books on infants and sleeping, and also recommended a magic sleep suit. An online group sharing recipes is giving me ideas for how to get my toddler to eat a vegetable. The list goes on and on.
There’s still so much I don’t know. And I’m sure that, as my parenting journey continues, there will be still more that I don’t even know I don’t know.
But what I do know is this: sometimes you can’t know if you need help until you let yourself be helped.
When in doubt, lean on the village.