Speed of Life

The Hare
The Hare

When I was pregnant with Silas, I remember remarking to a friend that one thing I found surprising about pregnancy was how sudden everything was. I had expected it would be more gradual, slow, steady. Instead, I experienced big jumps. I was miserably ill for months, and then I woke up one day and felt fine. I felt no movement for the longest time–long past when I thought I should have felt something–and then I suddenly had a little jumping bean who barely rested. I gained no weight, then five pounds in two weeks. My friend, who had one child at that time, said that she didn’t know what I meant. Her experience had been pretty even.

The crazy thing is that Silas has continued to be like this, working through patterns of sprints and plateaus. He doesn’t master any new skills for months at a time and then suddenly, he demonstrates dozens of new things in a week. He grows in spurts. One day, his clothes fit perfectly; the next, literally nothing fits him. His energy level leaps–we say, “Silas has moved to a higher octane lately, hasn’t he?”

And so I thought this is just what kids are like.

The Tortoise
The Tortoise

Until Petra.

When I was pregnant with her, I found that everything was perfectly gradual. I gained exactly one pound a week, every week, for thirty-nine weeks. I wasn’t as sick, and it built over several days from nothing into something more significant, and relented slowly as well. Her movements were, at first, so small I wasn’t sure they were there, and every day she moved more than the previous day, and her movement was more pronounced.

This has been her continued pattern. She’s growing slowly, but steadily. She recently mastered crawling, and she did it by figuring it out, one step at a time. She doesn’t astonish us with a pile of new skills all at once, but doles them out, one new thing each day.

I wonder if I’m imagining this connection between their prenatal personality and the children they are becoming. The numbers don’t lie, though–their growth, at least, is data.

I wonder, also, if each of us is born with our own rhythm, a beat that matters as much as temperament or Myers-Briggs type. I want to pause and observe my children’s rhythms now, to note this seeming in-born metronome, to save myself frustration later, when they are bigger. Maybe I will worry over whether Silas is progressing enough academically–I will need to remind myself that he’s probably in a plateau, and that when he starts climbing again, his ascension will be rapid. Maybe I will worry whether Petra is keeping up–I will have to remember to look for all the tiny steps that make up a complex skill and observe her piecing them out, one by one.

I wonder how many kids think they are stupid because their rhythm is out of sync with the expectations that their teachers and parents have for them. Do your kids have distinct patterns of development? How do you teach them to work with these patterns?

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