Sunday, April 8

Age Appropriate

Now in the grand scheme of things, this isn't something very big at all, but it is something that sometimes frustrates and throws me and it does cross my mind that this may be a precursor for the future if we were unlucky.
I'm talking at "baby classes" or baby groups which are segregated by age. I do, in fact, think it is sensible to put an age limit on classes and to group children of a similar age and ability together so that toddlers don't squash newborns flat and newborns don't drive toddlers round the bend with wailing etc. However my irritation comes when your child does not meet all the developmental milestones associated with age and such groups become barriers.
I like baby classes as it gives you a chance to meet other parents and have an activity, and as a lot of the mother and baby/toddler groups in my area are unfortunately either on days I work or terrifying. I would love to go to more of the library groups but they all clash with me coming home from work, as does many of the nearby Sure Start activities. I have tried to keep going to a Sure Start group organised nearby, but always feel a bit of a sore thumb as it was primarily set up for teenage parents and though they now welcome others and whilst I may be younger than some, I am not teenage at nearly 25. This problem also annoys me when it comes to days out which charge by age. I resented paying full price for soft play for example at age 1 when Wriggles could not yet even sit unsupported, let alone cruise or walk as the centre assumed 1 year olds do.

Wriggles is doing very well generally in view to her prematurity but does have some stumbling blocks. The SALT team are happy her speech is in line with her corrected age, and I am happy that as far as I can see her social, cognitive and largely her fine motor skills are all roughly around her corrected age of 16 months. The main problems we have (although 'problem' is the wrong world) is her gross motor skills. Also to a lesser degree her feeding skills lag hugely, she still is not brilliant at temperature control often ruling out activities like swimming for more than about 5 minutes and her lowered immune system means that every tiny bug turns into a fairly major catastrophe in our house. To look at her, you might not guess and just think her small, but if you spent a bit of time then you might notice. Recently a few people have noted that her use of her legs is a bit "different". We currently go to a baby music & movement group which is 3 months-walking and a baby signing class which is a very generous 4 months plus with a view to a follow-on toddler class opening soon. There is also a great drop-in movement group from birth to three years in the middle of the city which although is a bit mixed as the older children do tend to accidental almost trample the littlies, it is nice not having to declare age outright. 

At both groups we go to, we are the oldest by a mile. The signing group seems to double up a gossip group, especially as there is currently no follow on and so most of parents come back again and again. The music class is part of a structured franchise, and the children progress up according to age and development, whichever is most appropriate. We both enjoy the class a lot, and have been going for almost a year. During the year, we have seen at least three sets of mum-acquaintances progress up into the set above us. Whilst I am very happy these babies are walking and doing well, and still "hello" at their mums in Sainsburys, I do also feel a bit flooofff for us, taking our time. I would never want to push Wriggles beyond her ability and I am so proud with how she is doing, but if feels a bit funny to be still in the same group, and at least seven months ahead of the other babies. 

There are several activities I would love to try out, but am put off by the assumptions of ability. There are two groups that revolve around sensory opportunities and messy play that I think Wriggles would really benefit from, and though she is "the right age", reading the blurb and testimonies from other parents, all the other participants are very much mobile to make the most of the classes. It is enough of a faff if you need to go about explaining corrected age to the class leaders let alone parents, and then of course you are forever known as The Prem Mum. Where possible I try to keep my mouth shut unless it comes up, as I get a bit tired of being The Gossiped About One or Novel Parent Of The Week. For example though, the messy play group, Wriggles would probably just about manage in the group for her corrected age but definitely not actual, but if she found the corrected age group a little too advanced that would put us right back in the very little class.

We are now at the stage where we have officially outgrown the community paediatric 'Baby Therapy' group which focused on children with additional needs and developmental delay. So now we are in a middle ground, try to find activities that she will enjoy and push her without being so beyond her it becomes frustrating and upsetting. Maybe I should just grow a thicker skin! At the two groups we have been to for a while, people know we are The Prem Lot, partly as we have had to miss large chunks for hospital admissions/development check-ups and clinic/physiotherapy programmes and partly as when we first registered, Wriggles was still prone to having oxygen occasionally which was a bit of a giveaway. Now she is crawling and utterly adorable, she looks far more the part. Nevertheless, people are still visibly surprised by her age if they ask. 

Maybe I should take a leaf out of Wriggles' book, who isn't bothered and just tries to steal socks of the changing faces with no regard to if they came last week.


  1. You are enough, just as you are. Just as the mother you are. Just as the woman you are. You don't need to prove anything to anyone and if you need some time to be Mum to Wriggles without trying to be everything to everyone then take it. From the sounds of it, you've been through more in a couple of years than many people go through in a decade...or a lifetime. And maybe investigate disability benefits or carers allowance for Wriggles? I'm only suggesting that based on your other post about groups. If she needs a bit of extra care while she's becoming the lovely person she is then that's what those benefits are for - they're not about failure or being irresponsible, they're to help those of us who have beautiful but challenging little ones. Take care of you and Wriggles and rest. x

    1. Than you Charlotte. You made me feel quite at peace with myself!