Thursday, December 02, 2010

When to worry

I was reassured by your comments on my post about the preschool behavioral weirdness. Thank you. It took a while, but we were able to get to the root of the problem with Olivia--wariness of her new (male) teacher and the loss of her best school friend to kindergarten. Josh seems to have found a couple of kids he enjoys playing with and was even invited to a birthday party by a kid who said Josh was his "betht fwend," so...whew.

I feel like I'm constantly nibbling at the edges of some worry or another when it comes to the kids. Four rounds of ear infections and pink eye and I'm freaking out that they're going to have tried and failed every antibiotic on the market, and we'll have to quarantine them till they're thirty. And when Olivia stopped responding to questions and instructions for a couple of days, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that there must be some kind of neurological problem going on, instead of thinking that maybe, y'know, she couldn't hear because of said ear infections. (The latest antibiotic seems to have done the trick, and she is back to her chatty self.)

So I'm not sure if my current worry is one I should even mention here, or if, in a few months' time, I will fee like an idiot for having brought it up. But it's been stuck in my craw for a while now, and I simply cannot talk about it with family or friends.

My fear is this: I'm worried about Josh's development. I'm not worried in an I-think-there's-something-terribly-wrong way; I think he's probably somewhere in the normal range. It's just that he's not bounding ahead, learning things in great leaps, hungry for more. He seems content just to play with his Legos and look at his digger books and ignore the rest.

Take the alphabet, for example. Olivia knew the alphabet well before she was two. She knew all the letter sounds and could write them before she was three; she could write her name unassisted by Josh's age. But Josh...just doesn't seem to care. He showed some interest in letters about a year ago, learned most of them by sight, then promptly forgot them. It is only in the last few weeks that he has started singing the alphabet song without eliding whole sections. He insists that his name starts with O, because Olivia's does. O is the only letter he can reliably identify, and he seems to have no interest in re-learning the rest. When I try to make a game of it, he puts on a big grin and guesses randomly, without even looking at the letter I'm pointing to. He still skips numbers and cannot count up a group of objects greater than five. More than five and he just gives up without trying.

He also--I am horrified to admit--has started lying. While Olivia is, for whatever inexplicable reason, scrupulously honest, Josh will say whatever is most expedient. He will lie about having washed his hands, put away his toys, put on clean underwear. And then he'll smile at us angelically, which we have come to realize is his tell. (Good to note in case he tries to take up professional poker down the road. I'll clean him out before he can make the tour.)

I know that kids all develop differently. I do. But I'm starting to wonder if we're failing him somehow; if we gave Olivia a better foundation because she had that undivided time as an only child, or maybe because we expect so much more of her as the older sibling. I try to tell myself that Josh has been working on those capital-B Boy skills--running, jumping, hurtling himself off furniture without any consideration of pain or danger--but I'm pretty sure that's a cop-out.

I'm not sure how to wrap this up, except to ask: Is this normal, too? What would you do, if you were me?


Anonymous Cat said...

The thing about development is that being an earlier developer means NOTHING about your intelligence. (Sadly for my sister and me, who learned to read at 2.5 and 3.5. I mean, we're both above average but nothing extraordinary. Everyone caught up by end of elementary.) there are plenty of kids in kindergarten still working on the alphabet. I think it's just standing out more for you bc Olivia was so early. Only thing you can do, IMO, is to incorporate letters and numbers into daily routine and don't make them their own separate thing. Eg, with the baby I count her fingers tp make sure they're all still there when they come through her sleeve. Gatito could clearly have read at 2 but resisted it. At just 5 last month he's well into the 1st grade books at school. He just wasn't going to be responsive to ME on that front.

I am sure the lying is a natural developmental thing, though obvs needs to be handled. Haven't faced it yet myself but I am sure much has been written!

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cat is right about kids developing at different paces and where they are this early means nothing. That said, my friend's daughter wasn't interested in any of this stuff either, and it turned out to be because she had a severe learning disability. I'm not saying that is his issue; I am saying I would watch for signs of him flipping things, etc. But truly, I suspect it is personality.
Lying is very normal, and a sign of development. Kids do not realize it is wrong, or why it is wrong. It actually shows a lot of intelligence for them to tell something in a way other than the truth. Just stay calm and state that that isn't the truth, we tell the truth in this family, and move on. Jill

3:42 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

My gut reaction when reading this was that it sounded directly opposite of his big sister. I can almost hear it in his mind: yeah, he learned the alphabet, but Olivia already knew it so what's the point? Of course his favorite letter is O, it's Olivia's isn't it?
My little boy (3.5 y.o.) has this habit of somehow grokking exactly what it is that I know fore certain he is capable of and *really* want him to do (getting dressed on his own, pooping on the potty, telling me the truth, having good manners), and then going off and doing something else, usually the exact opposite, with a little grin and a giggle. For a new toddler, saying "no" is one of the most powerful things they learn, and now it feels to me like my kiddo's taking it to the next step--expressing it in more subtle ways.
If it eases your mind, and you trust the opinion of his preschool teacher, ask them their opinion. My little boy is very different in what he chooses to do at school than at home. I almost fell over when he said "excuse me, please, may I play on the computer?" Seriously, not something he does at home without a ridiculous number of prompts.

4:54 AM  
Blogger scissorbill said...

Don't compare them. I know it's hard. Last night my husband and I were laughing about how completely different our three boys are and we both agree that our first was a boy and our second a girl and then didn't have a third we'd blame all their differences on boy vs. girl. My first taught himself to read at age four. My second is four and doesn't reliably know all his letters. My third is barely two and knows most of his letters. They'll all get there eventually.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

My husband apparently didn't really read until 2nd grade. He ended up a National Merit Scholarship Winner. I read by age 3, though I only ended up a NM Finalist. I had always assumed our kids would be like me with regard to reading early, but our elder daughter started K without being quite sure of all the letter sounds. She finished K reading above grade level. And she doesn't have the excuse of spending her time on physical stuff - she spent a lot of time with her legs in casts and it would have been quite handy for her to have been reading. Yes, it's possible Josh has a learning disability, but it's totally normal for a kid to not be able to do those things at his age. It doesn't mean he's not bright or will have problems down the road.

Lying is also completely normal at this age. It's a phase, and if you don't make a huge deal out of it it will run it's course. I second the suggestion of talking to his teachers to see if they feel there are any areas of concern.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

I tend to think some of these things may be girl/boy things, and some may just be temperament Josh/Olivia things.

A. learned his alphabet before 2, and could easily identify upper and lower-case letters. When quizzed or motivated, he could put them together and identify words at about 2 1/2. And then he distracted by everything else going on in the world. Now, at 4, with some peer pressure, he's diving into reading, but he clearly was just not motivated for the past year and a half or so.

Josh just turned 3, right? It sounds like the lying is just another form of the limits-testing that's so frustrating at this age, as another commenter suggested. I don't think it's a sign that he's a budding sociopath.

Love to you, my friend. You're doing a great job, and your kids are lovely.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

My oldest and second child are the exact same as you describe... two girls so I know it is not a gender thing. My oldest is inquisitive, at age 2 wanted me to quiz her on the alphabet. She was running by 10 months. Totally a child I would label somewhat advanced. My second daughter is totally content playing alone with her toys. She didn't walk until 16 months. I could set her on the sofa and walk away, and she'd stay there until I went back to pick her up. She couldn't care less about letters/numbers. But she has an imagination that is remarkable. And it causes her to lie. Often. I think she believes that she's telling stories, and that there shouldn't be real consequences to the tall tales.

All in all, I wouldn't worry at all. In my short time of parenting, I've learned that every child develops at a different pace in different ways. It is VERY hard to not compare one child to the next. I've just had to learn to parent differently. And it makes me enjoy their diversity as children in a very fun way.

Good luck, and don't beat yourself up :)

6:48 AM  
Blogger For the Long Haul said...

I'm not sure if this is helpful or not, but I had my son first and then a daughter. My daughter (who's 19 months old now) is LEAPS and BOUNDS ahead of everything my son did. I constantly say, "It's a good thing I had him first or I would have been SO worried about his development." At 19 months old she does things that he didn't do until he was three. Like you daughter, she sings the alphabet and speaks in full sentences. My son did utter a comprehensible word until much after two--much less put two words together. So I really think there is just a huge difference between boys and girls and how they progress. I'm sure your boy is just fine. He's just being a typical boy.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellow mom of preschoolers and I were discussing this comparing that is impossible not to do. Is my child just doing their own thing on their own time or developmentally challenged in some way I should be helping with?? My son, a normal, bright, enthusiastic boy, has been normal by all developmental measures but at the end of the time line for several milestones which often left me feeling concerned but not being able to put my finger on exactly why. Eventually I developed this strategy, when I felt a niggling "their might be a problem", I tried to carefully identify what I felt was most concerning, then watch and try to wait out the end of the normal curve for development. Every time he always got there at a slow but normal pace, the closer I watched, the less concerned I got. He just wasn't interested in those items until, he was. Now the last year before kinder, there are still a few things that I felt persisted but aren't major. I'm going to have them checked out just to be thorough the last year of preschool, but even as I made the appointment for the evaluation, he started catching up on some of these hold-out skills. Now I have b/g infants to compare too. Wonder if this will get me to stop the comparing finally or just drive me nutty with the who is delayed this week! Good luck and trust your instincts, they are probably catching something real, if not a major issue. Cheers, Sue

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Kris said...

I haven't read the comments yet, but my boy sounds like your boy and your girl sounds like my girl, but my girl is the youngest, and my son the oldest.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think every child develops differently. Josh sounds pretty normal to me. My daughter couldn't read when she started Kindergarten and is now in the 5th grade and is on the honor roll. I remember her 1st grade teacher telling me that my daughter was unable to count by 2's and that surprised me, so I asked her at home to count by 2's and she went, 1,3,5,7,9,11,.....all the way into the 30's. As soon as she said 1 they assumed she couldn't count by 2's. My point is is that everbody is different and learns at a different pace.

8:19 PM  
Blogger 4katnap said...

Heres where I say NOMRAL! One of the problems with having a child that is advanced is you don't realize that having an early learner or advanced learner makes younger Normal kids seem slow.
O is noral for O. J is normal for J. So what they are different. They learn differently but that doesn't mean that one is smarter than the other, or that you are failing one. I was 2 when my Brother was in Kindy. Mom was trying to teach him his ABC's. I at 2 learned them first and he learned them because he couldnt' stand that little sister knew something he didn't. Before that ... He just didn't care about learning the ABS's. (545 years ago most kids learned ABC's in Kindy) My mom didn't know you coudl teach a 2 year old their ABC's! In Highschool My brother kicked my rear grade wise. So yeah early learning is good but not learning early doesnt' mean you aren't smart.

9:13 PM  

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