When F was born, the oldest of our three children, I had a purely book smart knowledge of how children grow and develop. I knew what months an infant would typically babble, crawl, walk, and more. I understood why a two year old tantrums and the importance of a preschooler asking “why” all the time.

So when I had my own child, I cherished these little milestones. Photos pasted in his baby book, all of his firsts documented. And it was all typical. He breezed through expected triumphs and the regular joys of raising a baby ensued month by month. In fact, F was so typical that when he reached age two with almost no words, I didn’t think of the red flags. I knew that children develop differently. I assumed this was just who he was. The words would come, and development would keep on.

So when the tantrums came and the words still didn’t, I pushed back the worries.

When his pediatrician commented on his lack of speech I let her words marinate along with any hints of doubt that I held until even I noticed that he just wasn’t speaking any better on his own.

It wasn’t until age two and a half that I heard the word “autism” in relation to my child, and I denied it at first. But, red flags don’t lie.

When my second child was born, in the pure heat of his brothers constant tears and moodiness, the watchful eye over our new baby’s milestones had a purely different tone. Social smile? Rolling? Sleeping through the night? I obsessed over it all, making sure that I wasn’t missing anything. F didn’t breastfeed well. With his brother, I fought everything to breastfeed him because a little corner of my soul had lied and claimed it to be why F struggled so much.

So, with a very young and nonverbal boy with autism, and a newborn baby, I battled mastitis at least a handful of times all to ensure that this time I wouldn’t fail my child.

As my second child grew, he had delayed gross motor development. Every night I fell through the Google rabbit hole. Why wasn’t he bearing weight on his legs? Still not crawling, nowhere near walking? Luckily his doctor, the same one who brought up autism a year previous with F, looked him over and assured me he was okay. A little lazy, but he would be alright. And she was right, our second born is the sweetest, laziest, little boy we’ve ever met. He did learn to crawl and walk. Something amazing and foreign happened with this child too. He began to talk. While F sat in therapy, week after week practicing the same goal of saying “I want”, his younger brother learned to look me in the eye and say “I love you”.


By the time that F even truly noticed his brother was there, the baby was already laughing and splashing in the bath.

Now, years later as we brought our third boy into the world, it hasn’t gotten any easier stressing over milestones.

The baby rolled early, okay great. That’s a good sign right? No problems breastfeeding.

But wait, he still won’t sleep through the night at 3/4 of a year old. Is that a red flag?

Yes he babbles, but only when he’s tired. Is that a problem? I mean, he really interacts with people and smiles with them.

Maybe that means it’s okay?

He’s getting close to crawling but doesn’t like to hold his spoon. Sensory issues? Normal development?

You would think that after a masters degree and three children it would get a tinge easier.

Nothing prepares you for the emotional turmoil of one of your children not being “okay”. There’s no coming back from that.

And the thing is, he is absolutely “okay”. But as you navigate an autism diagnosis with your child, lists labeled as “red flags” and “concerns” certainly don’t make you feel lighter.

The absolute funniest part of this path is that all three of my children have woven me through both concerns and milestones. I have checked off weird attributes in all three.

But you know what?

Kids are just weird.

Sometimes they walk late because it’s easier if mom carries them.

Sometimes they talk late because of a neurological disorder.

Sometimes they tantrum because they got the wrong color juice box.

And sometimes the meltdown because their shoes feel funny.

Some children look at you when you talk to them and respond.

Some children walk right past you and repeat what you said a week later.

Only one of my children has Autism. Yet, all three take turns driving me bonkers. All three bring me so much joy over the little things.

Isn’t that amazing?

Every single human being is an intricate web of setbacks and successes. For my oldest boy, he learned the talk late and still throws massive fits when things don’t go his way. Yet he knows bits and pieces of a dozen languages at age six.

For my middle boy, he is not meant to run cross country. But he sets the table for his brother whenever he can, giving him a colorful straw because he knows it makes him happy.

For my youngest boy, he doesn’t sleep through the night. But he snorts when he laughs and greets me with the sweetest drool filled smiles when I enter the room.

Milestones don’t make a child.

Humanity does.

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