G. and L. turned 2 years, three months old this month. Now, to most people, this is not normally a milestone, but around here it's a big deal. That's because K. was this age when we brought him home from Vietnam and to compare him at that age with the girls right now is eye-opening.
It's probably a good thing that even though I had already raised 5 two-year-olds, that I had forgotten what they were able to do. It was disturbing enough to see his state and functional level without being fully aware of exactly how delayed he was. And watching the girls now, he was very, very delayed. I can't help thinking about K. while I watch G. and L. these days.
K. could sit, but only with his back curved into a 'C', and could walk. G. and L. run and jump (with both feet leaving the ground) and climb and ride their tricycle and can almost do somersaults. K. didn't talk... or even babble. G. and L. talk (and talk and talk) in sentences, have huge vocabularies, have an awareness of letters, G. counts to 11 and L. can tell you whether there is one or two of something. I'm not sure K. had ever seen a book. G. and L. love books, look at them independently, know which way is right-side-up, and know that Mommy can't read if you put your hand over the words. K. didn't cry, even when he got hurt, because he had learned there was no point. G. and L. are entirely appropriate in their need to explore, but with quick hugs and checking that Mommy is still around, and the minute they get hurt, they run straight to Mommy demanding band-aids. K. had only ever eaten thin rice cereal out of a bottle. G. and L. eat just about everything. We won't even talk about size and weight.
I am constantly amazed at what is learned in the first two years of life in a normal environment. It is truly a huge amount. There has been much written about how the first years of life are crucial to a child's development which confirms my observations, but I find much of it to be from an all-or-nothing approach. It seems to say that if a child has missed this window, that's it. They've lost out, there is no hope for them.
I don't think this is always the case. While K. may have life-long effects from his first two years, there is no reason to write him off because he spent his first two years as essentially an infant. He has been catching up. God has been gracious to K. and I believe has planned things for him to make the most of his potential. And I think that G. and L. have (and will have) a huge role in this healing. Not only have J. and I been blessed to have these two little girls, but more and more I see that their being here is also benefiting K. They help him in a couple of ways. First, I think that their infancy has helped show him how to be a baby and young child in nurturing environment. K. watches them and often copies them. They are his role models for healthy development and I'm sure he's caught some of what he missed the first time around as a result. They also spur him on to the next milestone as well. He knows they are younger than he, and like any child, does not want someone younger to pass him up. With G. and L. developing normally, they sometimes come pretty close to doing just that. It seems to be the spur that K. needs to hit the next milestone and keep ahead.
I know K. would continue to develop and make gains even if he didn't have two busy little sisters, but I don't think they would have been as great. We are all blessed by these two little girls. God truly does know what is best for our families. How much more impoverished our lives would be (and we wouldn't even know it) if we thought we knew better than God.