Partner parent

This morning, getting Theo and Rosie changed, Theo spotted a puzzle and brought it to me: “Can we do this?” he asked.

“Oh great,” I thought, rolling my eyes. “A three year old doing a puzzle…let’s get this over with.” I whizzed through the puzzle, assembling it in a flash, barely incorporating Theo’s suggestions (all of which were wrong: “I think this goes here!”), so that we could move on to more age-appropriate activities. Besides, we had a plan; we were getting changed, so we could go outside. Move along.

But when Kendra gets asked by one of our kids to do a puzzle, it’s an entirely different game.

She can see developmental milestones, a gift from her time spent studying human biology at undergraduate and master’s levels, including some paediatrics.

As a parent, she lives into her role as a coach: she identifies tasks the kids need to do, and will attempt to equip and encourage them to do the job.

In the case of a puzzle, she’ll let them do the handling, so they can work on dexterity, motor skills and spatial awareness. She’ll encourage them to do the placing, to notice patterns, and keep trying. She’ll tune in to their own emotional attitudes, encouraging them to persevere, to build resilience. She relies on her experience in rehabilitation as a physiotherapist to do this.

It’s mind-blowing to see her competence step into the ring. For me, I’m so absorbed in my own mental reverie and emotional milieu, lost in my own thoughts and feelings, that I’m brushing past the opportunity. I’m so uninformed about matters of development, that I don’t even know what physical and cognitive milestones to coach them towards.

This was a huge gift when our son Ben was around three years old. On any given day with with Benjamin, I’d be overwhelmed and lost, and quickly blame my own bad parenting for the various freakouts we would encounter. But Kendra began noticing patterns. And that led us to explore with professionals the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Difficulties. It helped us get Ben help from an occupational therapist, alongside a couple other professionals, to help us know how to build in to Ben’s unique reality.

I wouldn’t have even noticed. I would have assumed it was my problem, or a one-off emotional day, or just the general challenges of parenting. Kendra helped us spot that something was consistent.

I say this to point out a few obvious takeaways: Partnership in parenting is so crucial. We each bring different viewpoints to the table, which help round out an understanding of our kids. The skills and perspectives each parent has is a gift.

Secondly, sometimes, the reality of childhood development means something else is going on. There may be unique resources, tools, and funding to help address something in your own kiddo that you might be writing off. In the case of Sensory Processing, it’s a cousin of autism/Asperger’s that has less visibility and funding, but has many valuable tools to explore.

Lastly, one key point: Kendra is amazing. I don’t think she has plans to make herself available for paediatric developmental consulting and coaching, but she would do amazing at it.