B +ve and O +ve were born pre-term at 33 weeks. They both weighed around 1.8 kg at their birth and went down to 1.5 kg before starting to gain weight. The doctor told us that till the girls turn 2 years, they will be considered 2 months younger to their birth-date to adjust for their pre-term birth.
I still remember how they looked at 1.5 kgs. I also remember the reactions of some of the people on seeing them, who had only seen babies born full term with normal weights. One of my wife’s friends, who has 2 children of her own, commented that our girls look like aliens.
Even after leaving the hospital, our visits to the doctor continued on a regular basis. The girls used to fall ill quite regularly with their immunity being on the lower side. And when one fell ill, her sister invariably followed her. It was very frustrating that whatever weight gain they had in a month’s time used to get almost wiped out in a week.
Till the time the girls turned 6 months, we could visit the doctor only during designated hours that the hospital called “high-risk children clinic”. The doctor told us that we should visit him every 6 months so that he could check on the developmental milestones of the girls.
All these led to lots of lots of parental anxiety. It is easier to look back now, rather even forget those days, given that their development has been normal, so far.
However, I suppose, each phase has learning attached to it. And it is always better to keep a tab on the learning so that history does not repeat itself.
The first year
The girls learnt how to neck control, turn around, sit, crawl, walk and the assorted. Each development milestone was a celebration for us, just like any other parents. Just that, we moved from one stage of parental anxiety to the next.
I read in the hospital lobby from the numerous leaflets that whatever growth issues the child has will manifest in the second year. I kept waiting for the second year to arrive.
The second year
The girls started learning to speak, their initiation to solid foods, potty training and exploration of the world around them.
We kept visiting the doctor every 6 months to check on their development milestones. Sometimes, one girl was lacking in some aspect, whereas at times, the second girl was missing out somewhere. The doctor kept giving us feedback for the correctional measures.
At the end of the second year, the doctor told us that our twin daughters were growing normally. Now, their age had to be considered as per their birth-date.
I thought that it was the end of parental anxiety about the child’s growth. How mistaken I was?
Each thought/question about the child leads to parental anxiety
As the girls started going out more often and met more and more people, the questions came flying thick and fast. Most of these questions were on a set pattern. Which school the girls go to? Do they know their ABC? How many nursery rhymes they know? Have they learnt how to write? What are they doing in a park during school hours?
I suppose all these questions are well-intentioned. When we do not have positive answers to most of these questions, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety.
When we see children around the same age strutting around in school uniforms and going to the school for 6 hours, the thought that our children are going to lag behind does lead to sleepless nights.
Even though it has been a conscious decision of on our part as parents to keep the girls out of the formal learning environment, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety if we are doing the right thing.
I was thinking on these lines quite a lot. Suddenly, I got some questions. When did B +ve speak her first word? When did O +ve learn to crawl? Which date did B +ve had her first solid food? When did O +ve learn to jump? I, of course, do not remember any of these dates. Just that both the girls do these things as on date and more. That is it. I got my answer.
The answer to parental anxiety
The answer that I got is that there is no end to parental anxiety till the time a parent keeps expecting more and more out of the child.
Once O +ve and B +ve did a certain task, immediately I expected them to go to the next level. They learnt how to pick blocks, I expected them to connect the blocks. They learnt how to connect the blocks, I expected them to make a building out of it. Once they learnt how to make a building, I expected them to make vehicles and other objects. Now that they know how to do it, I expect them to make a real building out of cement and concrete. There is no end to it.
Once the girls learn a certain task, I do not even care to remember how and when and where they picked up. I do not even stop to cherish the moment rather I rush to the next level of the game of pushing the girls furthermore. I treat them as an object of giving shapes and making adults when they are actually four and a half years old.
The answer I am getting to my parental anxiety is that the question is not what a four-year-old should know, but what the parent of a four-year-old should know. Am I letting my child enjoy her childhood? Am I letting my child be a child?
O +ve and B +ve may learn their ABCs and nursery rhyme a bit late, it has to be fine with me. Once the girls enter the rat race, they are not going to find their way out of the maze soon; but if I can delay their entry for some time for that they are children and not rats; I have to learn to be fine with it.
I have to learn to manage the parental anxiety for that it is mine and I cannot pass it to my children.