The Pain of an "Average" Child
by Vee Zee Bee
I am thankful that my child is blessed with normalcy and not has special needs, I can imagine the pain, heartache and toil a parent with a special needs child will have to go through and the potential of social rejection the parent will have to experience along with their child or children. I pray that we as a society can become more sensitive to their needs and be compassionate towards another whose special needs come not from lack of effort, but of the luck of draw from nature.
Yet also seldom highlighted in media, is the pain of the average child. The child who has not exhibited any of the dazzling gift or talent that our world celebrates; nor is the underdog who is able to fight to turn their “shortcomings” into amazing strengths that astounds the world like the autistic American girl, Carly, whose typings astonish the world and bring awareness on the intelligence that autistic children possess.
This is the child who is average (or maybe even slightly below average) in weight, average (or a little below average) in height and in head circumference. This is the child who is average (or just a bit below average) in milestone development. This is the child doctors will brush off with “Oh, yes, maybe she is just a tiny bit slow. But don’t worry; she is still well within the normal in development.”
This is likely the child who has never topped the class in anything, who has not won in any talent or beauty contests or has said or done anything that astounds or astonishes anyone. This is likely the child who will graduate into the average person who toils for the machinery of our economy and becomes part of the anonymous average/majority statistics that researchers uses to analyse trends or situations but who likely does not warrant any additional thought after.
And so far as I can discern, this is likely my child, and sometimes, I feel her pain. After observing her for a while, it is usual for parents to make remarks like, “Oh, that’s nice. Do you know that Adora was able to talk from 12 months old? Wow, and she can talk so clearly. I can hear her distinct “cat”, “dog” the last time I saw her just a bit after her first birthday….” Or (after some time of seeing Z walk around) “Oh you know Issac? He had walked from 9 months old! Isn’t it amazing?”
I know my child can’t speak well yet, but believe me, my toddler can understand what we are talking about, even if we are not talking directly to them. Why has my child’s existence become a regular jumping board of highlighting someone else’s brilliance?
I have nothing against others’ brilliance and I delight and rejoice (ok, sometimes I want to delight and rejoice) in others’ success and achievements. It is of course ok to share about others in normal conversation.
But when you are with my child, can you also acknowledge her current achievement and success? I know walking from 14 months old is nothing special and speaking two-syllables at 15 months old is average in the whole child timeline by the whole child development literature. But to a person who had needed support in moving around previously, to a person who had struggled to master the exact sounds you use to communicate the same ideas before, it is a big deal.
Wouldn’t it be similar as saying to a patient who had taken their first independent tentative steps after rehabilitation “Oh, that’s nice that you can walk. You know Alicia has been walking her whole adult life?”? If I am that patient, I will scream at you, “Yes, yes I know! But look! I was lame and now I can walk! Can you celebrate with me?”
If you have such dialogue constantly revolving around you, wouldn’t you grow up to think, “I’m insignificant, I’m average, nothing special will happen to me.”
Wouldn’t it be more empowering if you say more of “Hello Z, is that the first time you speak those 3-syllables? Good job! You’ve done so well! Next time when auntie sees you again, you show me new things you know ok?” Wouldn’t you make more of a difference in the child’s life if you say “Z, is that your new truck? Can you show auntie how you move that truck?”
Focus on being with the child, be interested in that child, celebrate that particular child’s achievements at that particular stage of their life. For guess what? When we become infirm, and our knees may or may not grow weak with age, which uncle or auntie will the child be more likely to visit periodically and bring in life-giving dialogue and laughter?