Apparently the “Day After Labor Day”= “Turn the air off and the heat on” down here in South Georgia. Never mind the thermometer- Fall is here! Which makes me think of developmental timetables…
It is amazing to me the degree that the calendar tyrannizes us- and I include myself in that subjugated group. The day of my 40th birthday, I was looking for those encroaching wrinkles- and found them. The gray hair I had already found… sigh. They probably were there already, but I didn’t notice until the calendar told me to look for them. When my daughter was having a hard time talking, no one would listen to me until the day she turned two. Never mind the fact that she didn’t babble, she didn’t make sounds other than a change in volume from a pleased hum to an ear-piercing screech, and she didn’t have any words- no one would listen to my concerns until she turned two. March 5th= “range of typical development”. March 6th= “area of concern”.
Did she learn to talk? Yes- but with a great deal of instruction and prompting. And it happened a few months after she turned four. And in times of stress, she still echoes or screams or loses her pronouns or reverts back to earlier language patterns.
My son was sortof the opposite. He was talking at 10 months, 14 word, run-on sentences at age 2. I was a proud mother, but no real development of him happened until he was assessed at the end of 1st grade, when they found that he was reading 3 grade levels ahead.
In both cases, I felt vindicated. “See? I TOLD YOU there was something different about this kid! Can we do something NOW?” But the calendar determines the level of concern, the level of intervention, a change in what we do.
The calendar clock is a tool that we devised way back when we needed to organize our lives- when we needed something to help us direct our attention- to remind us. “Oh, it’s getting cold. I should prepare for winter… Oh, the days are getting longer. I should plant now or I’ll be hungry.” The calendar keeps our religious observations on track- Wearing our Sunday best– our work lives coherent- Working for the weekend! Meeting at 1:00!– and our recognition of important people and their relationship to our lives- Happy Birthday, Gran!. It helps us coordinate with other people- Wanna meet for lunch at 12:00?- and helps us prioritize- At 4:00, I have to start making dinner. The calendar clock serves as a tool to organize our lives- it recognizes that we might not pay attention without a prompt.
The calendar can also remind us of things that we would rather not pay attention to. When my friend’s son turned 13 and he was still watching “Blue’s Clues”, she was reminded, once again, that he is “behind”. When kindergarten started for the daughter of another friend of mine- a child in diapers- she was reminded once again, that her daughter is “delayed”. When December 26th rolls around, the loss of my dad is fresh again. In these cases, the calendar drives the loss, the sense of anguish, the grief.
But when the needs themselves are already attracting our attention, when we’re noticing that there is a need, regardless of what the calendar says, we should be able to do something. When we’re in the middle of coping, of managing, the calendar can trigger it all back again- we should be able to toss the calendar. If you’re hungry- eat. If you need speech therapy- get it. If you need 4th grade reading material, read that. If you’re working on diapering skills, work on those. I have read where the greatest strength of email/cellphones/electonic media is that it allows us to be in control of our own time. It would be so nice to be able to focus on the individual, on the patterns, the needs, and the growth.
And in the case of my school, it would be so nice if the day after Labor Day wasn’t the day the heat goes on.
I could carry on more, but I’m sweltering and I have a class at 11:00 I have to prep for…