All in good time
How many times I heard this phrase from parents, teachers, bosses and generally from people around. To be honest most of the time it sounded like some sort of excuse. It was a convenient phrase not to do something at that particular time, not to push further forward, not to make the best effort, so it sounded a bit sluggish and even “loserish” to me. However recently I looked at this phrase from a very different angle and realised how true these words can be.
All parents know how much the world changes once you’ve had your first baby, then it bounces once again after the second child arrives and then you step into a parallel universe after the third (and I simply don’t know which new galaxies parents with four and more children discover).
So, your baby is here, you have finally figured out how to put a nappy on and how to hold him for burping after feeding, and once these basic routines are established, the race begins.
“Is she smiling yet?”, “our first was smiling in hospital, so cute”, “is he rolling yet?”, “our second rolled at around two months, the doctors were amazed”, “is he walking?”, “is she talking”, “are they jumping” and so on and so on. Young parents, especially first-timers, might feel trapped in this strange feeling of desperately trying to catch up with all those amazing babies and toddlers that are smiling, rolling, walking and talking from birth.
Initially, I also fell for this feeling of constant comparison, however I failed to compete quite quickly as my premature son had his own developmental milestones that were not fitting any of the norms. I was tired of answering why he wasn’t sitting, talking or walking by the milestone dates. Then, after a few geographical moves and the arrivals of two more sons I simply didn’t have time to participate in those conversations and to compare the achievements of my boys.
However, social media was constantly presenting me with photos and stories of deep diving babies, toddlers dancing on roller skates and multilingual four year olds reciting the poems of Edgar Po and songs of Edith Piaf in an equally perfect manner. And there were my boys who were not diving, not skating, nor singing in French. And it was all multiplied by three as the comparisons were coming from three different age groups. I tried not to pay much attention and didn’t lose much sleep over the development of my children, but from time to time that little nagging warm of doubt would crawl into my head: “are you doing everything you should be doing? Are you paying enough attention to everything you should be paying attention to? Do they have best teachers, tutors, school? Is your parenting good enough?”
However, not so long ago a little something happened in our family and I now remind myself of it every time I feel an urge to compare my boys to their peers. Our eldest son got his first bike when he was three, he had stabilisers on and really enjoyed riding his stable bike. When he was nearly five he got his second bigger bike and his young brother got the first one. I decided not to repeat the mistake of stabilisers with the second son and at the same time announced to the eldest that it is time for him to learn to ride that bike without them.
Well, my plans failed. Neither of them could stay on their bike for more than two seconds: they kept falling and crying and I kept running behind while holding their saddles and trying to help them to stay upright. But nothing worked. I was angry and tired and wondering what was wrong with my boys especially seeing all those happy two year olds passing by casually on their little two-wheeled bikes. And then I fell pregnant with our third boy, he was born, and then we moved and there was no time for cycling with the hectic life we had.
And then, living in a nice car-free area of Hong Kong, I noticed a sale in one of the bike shops and couldn’t resist buying two new bikes for the boys. We decided to try again.
The boys got their full protection gear on (just in case), waited for their father to come home from work and ran outside to try the bikes. I was prepared for lots of falling, lots of running alongside and lengthy discussions on perseverance and resilience...and... They just got on their bikes and went off... both of them. The six year old in about 3 minutes and the four year old about ten minutes later after just a few nudges and corrections. They just felt it, they just knew how to do it, it was just their time to ride the bike.
They have been riding their bikes nearly every day since then, they support each other, they explore new paths and they help their younger brother to get into the saddle too.
And back then, on that day when they learned how to ride their bikes, I was just standing there in the twilight of a warm spring evening, looking at the shining faces of my happy children and the only thought was recurring in my head “all in good time”. Don’t rush it...