A Tale of Two Trees—And Kids Who Struggle

two trees

For several years now, my husband and I have had an ongoing “discussion” about one of two trees in our front yard. Basically, I’ve been concerned about the poor thing and he has not. Every year, the tree of mention buds, blossoms, and grows. “See, that tree is fine!” my husband says. But this year, the differences between the two trees has—in my eyes—grown more significant.

The healthy tree is at least two times as tall; it’s branches spread in every direction and wave happily in the sky. It has a thick, straight trunk that has grown steadily since last year (we do nature study around here and keep up with this type thing!). Every branch boasts of new limbs and vibrant, green leaves.

On the other hand, tree number two is just the opposite. It looks like an elderly woman, bent over and gray. The base of its trunk is knotted, and every other branch is void of any signs of life. The disparity between these two identical trees, likely planted on the same day some 20 years ago, reminded me of a dilemma that many parents face when they have concerns about their child’s development: “Should I wait and see” or “Should I find out more and do something?”

Early Isn’t Always Better

I started watching our tree more closely this year because it blossomed a full week before its counterpart! Strange. It was simply covered with lovely pink flowers. Unfortunately, this was not a “good thing.” As tree number one slowly developed its blossoms, tree two quickly lost its flora and never brought on green leaves—at least not many. Currently, the tree looks like it should be transported to a winter scene. The branches are mostly bare and very brittle. Even though it was ahead of schedule in the blossoming department, our tree was in trouble.

Like our tree, when it comes to child development, doing things earlier is not always a good thing. Sometimes it is a red flag. Milestones in the various areas of development have been established for a reason. They are the typical pattern that occurs as the human body develops. When a child skips a stage, or doesn’t stay in a stage long enough, that can impact the child negatively later on.

When I was a student teacher, I taught a little guy in kindergarten who could read anything. It was quite amazing! I recall a time when I was holding a cup in my hand, and he walked by me. As he did, he looked up and read the words: “SOLO PARTY CUP.” The problem was that this student could not copy letters or shapes with a pencil, use scissors, walk in an even gait, or carry on a conversation. His reading ability was not balanced with the other areas of development, and that was a concern.

Follow Your Instincts

In hindsight, I wish that we would have done something to address the needs of tree number two. But, as I said, the differences between the two trees didn’t seem that significant at first. Each year it flowered, developed beautiful green leaves, and followed up with a colorful autumn display. Even though I was concerned about some issues, in some ways, the tree appeared to be doing all right. Remember, I also had someone that I love and respect telling me not to worry. But, despite my efforts to convince myself otherwise, our tree was in need.

dead tree

If you have concerns about your child’s development in any area, I encourage you to listen to your gut and find out more. That can mean different things for different situations. Maybe you’ll give HSLDA a call and speak to one of our special needs consultants. Maybe you’ll research the area you’re concerned about by attending workshops or reading books on the subject. Depending on your child’s need, you may want to have an evaluator do an assessment. Whatever you do, don’t ignore that still small voice in your “mama heart.” Your instinct is often right.

Where Did the Time Go?

I first noticed some issues with our tree 10 years ago. Yes, you read that right. I have done nothing to address the needs of our tree, other than prune it, for 10 years. But, in my defense, it doesn’t SEEM like 10 years since I first saw these slimy green things growing out the base of the tree. In fact, it sort of seems like yesterday. Where did the time go?

That’s the trouble with the “wait and see” approach when it comes to our children. Time flies! When you become a parent, everyone says, “Enjoy every moment because it will go by quickly!” That, my friends, is the understatement of the world! Before you know it, that precious bundle that you brought home from the hospital is a young person, packed and ready to face the world on his own. My oldest has just turned nine, and our baby is now six. I. Cannot. Believe. This.

I don’t know how many moms I’ve spoken to who have told me, “My child has always struggled with…but, I thought he would grow out of it. Now he’s 12, and we’ve hit a wall. I didn’t mean to wait so long to find out what was going on; it just happened.” These moms are worried, not only because they can’t get a handle on what the real issue is that their child is facing—they’ve determined that it’s not due to needing more time—but also they’re worried about the perception of “professionals.” Will they think they’ve neglected their child’s educational needs? In most cases, this is not the case! Even if the family has not had the child formally evaluated, this does not mean that they haven’t attempted to address the educational needs of the child. Most moms I talk to have been making accommodations, modifying the curriculum, and doing whatever they can to support their child’s needs.

But, there is another worry. These moms are also concerned because their child, who has many strengths, is now bogged down with years of feeling stupid or not good enough. I know many families are opposed to labeling their child. But sometimes, having a name for something that has plagued you for years brings some assurance and strength to the individual. Identifying the problem empowers the person to say, “I’m not stupid. I learn differently, but I’m smart in a lot of ways.”

It’s Never Too Late

Today, our neighbors have a tree service company working in their yard. Truly, we really need to walk across the street and have them remove our poor tree. While it’s too late for the tree, it’s never too late for your child!

healthy tree

PS- I love my husband!


Photo Credit: All photos courtesy of Krisa Winn

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