In Their Own Time

My daughter was a thumb sucker from the beginning. She looked adorable as an infant as she self-comforted. But as she grew older and started walking and then running, it charmed me less. I started to worry. I wanted her to stop. My wonderful, somewhat laid-back pediatrician said, “Relax, Mother. Have you ever seen a bride walk down the aisle sucking her thumb? When she doesn’t need to self-soothe, she’ll stop.” Guess what? A short time later, she stopped.

Before my son went to kindergarten, he learned to tie his shoes. But he loathed the task, as he did many other tasks requiring fine-motor skills. “He needs to be able to tie his shoes to go to kindergarten!” I lamented to same pediatrician. He repeated his mantra. “Relax, Mother. When he matures a little more, he’ll tie his shoes.” So, for those days when neither of us could face an early-morning shoe-tying tantrum, I bought him school shoes with Velcro closures, much to his kindergarten teacher’s dismay (she thought I was enabling). I tried not to worry. One day—much later in the school year—I watched him on the playground stop what he was doing and quickly, competently tie his shoe himself before resuming play.

How many times, I wonder, did I push my kids to do something before they were developmentally ready? How many times did I compare my kids’ skill sets to those of their peers and either 1) worry that my kid was “behind,” or 2) feel relieved that my kid was further along? Probably more times than I care to admit. But eventually I learned what my wise pediatrician was trying to teach me all along—that kids really are a lot like flowers and they’ll bloom when it’s their time, if you love and tend to them.  

One of my favorite quotes, which unfortunately I can’t attribute to the right wise person, goes something like this: “I have worried about many things in my life, but most of them never came true.”

Another favorite quote I attribute to my pediatrician, with thanks and gratitude: “Relax, Mother!”

Christine French Cully

Christine French Cully is Chief Purpose Officer and Editor in Chief at Highlights for Children. As Chief Purpose Officer, Cully’s focus is on growing awareness and implementation of the Highlights purpose, core beliefs, and values—to help actualize the organization’s vision for a world where all children can become people who can change the world for the better....