When your child is born you wait eagerly for those first smiles, typically they happen between 4-6 weeks. This amazing little being then begins to hold his/her head up not too long after, followed by rolling over. He/She learns how to sit around 6 months, begins to crawl, learns to feed, pulls him/herself up, cruises furniture and walks, talks, even runs...and ALL of this typically happens within the first 12-18 months of life. These achievements, while exciting to a parent the first time they occur, are expected. It is not a matter of if your child will accomplish these amazing milestones; it is simply a matter of when.
I can remember back to when Sonya's oldest sister was a baby. I remember how neurotic I was about her meeting each milestone. How worried I became when her same aged peers achieved these goals before her. I can't tell you the amount of times I whipped out my speech assessments to ensure she was indeed on target. When she finally reached a goal it was met with a combination of a sense of relief and looking towards the next one. I can tell you that even though she took her time in meeting these goals, I never gave much thought to the science behind them.
Let's take smiling for example. Neurons transmit signals from the brain's cerebral cortex to the brainstem. Part of the brainstem’s work is controlling the medial lemniscus, which handles facial sensations, with many important facial nerves also emerging from this area. The face then receives the message to smile. When a person smiles, the brain releases chemicals that give rise to euphoric, happy feelings. This leads to more smiling, creating a positive loop of smiling, and the brain releasing chemicals. If you actually think about it, there is a lot occurring behind the scenes for what comes across as a simple upward lip movement. It is incredible, scratch that, it is a miracle that this can occur at all, much less when we are month old.
We can easily be distracted by watching another child complete a task earlier, or "better" than our child. It can be difficult when a parent asks us questions about our child's skills. We can feel self-conscious for our child, and inadequate as a parent. We can get so caught up in the moment; we forget to take the entire picture into view.
One of the reasons I am sure Sonya was brought into Sam's and my lives was to teach us to appreciate every little thing, whether big or small. We have spent upwards of TEN minutes working with Sonya just to be rewarded with a half-moon smile. Let me tell you, that little moon is cause for a celebratory dance over here! That tiny movement takes such strength, hard work, and determination, and we let Sonya know how proud of her we are for it. But on the flip side, she is 3 months old. Most children her age have been smiling for 6-8 weeks already. I could easily say, "That’s great, she smiled, now let's move on", but my new Sonya influenced self, celebrates each little moon she gives me. I do NOT take any resemblance of a smirk for granted. I am so in awe of ALL that is behind these expressions.
Sometimes it is not a matter of finishing the race first, but just that you simply crossed the finish line. Sometimes it is worthwhile to stop, take a look around, and just smell the roses.