30 June 2011

No, She Can't Count to Ten

Recently, we visited the pediatrician for Heidi's 2.5 year check-up. Aside from the excessive questions about why I don't give my children milk, one part of the conversation stuck out for me, enough that it is still bothering me to this moment.

Pediatrician: "Can she count to at least ten?"
Me: "Um...no...She has counted up to as much as six before, but, um.. no."
Pediatrician: "Does she know her colors?"
Me: "Uh..she's doing a lot better with them...she has been picking them out a lot more recently..."
Me: "But she knows a lot of other things...She can recognize most animals, even ones like elephants and zebras..."
Pediatrician: "OK..."

I have many problems with this, obviously, but before I get into that, here are some of the things Heidi does know (or can do):

- She knows the difference between an airplane and a helicopter, recognizes trains, bridges, cars, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles and especially garbage trucks.
- She can identify most animals, including (but not limited to) cats, dogs, birds, frogs, turtles, fish, elephants, giraffes, horses, cows, ducks, chickens, geese, crabs, bears and bugs (yes, I know they're not technically animals...)
- She has known all her body parts for well over a year now.
- She knows that sitting in the driver's seat of the car, she should put the key in the ignition. Yes, this is so thrilling to me.
- She has know that a key is used to unlock a door for well over a year, despite me saying anything to her about it.
- When she pees in her diaper, she takes it off and puts it in the laundry room. (This makes more sense if you know that we cloth diaper.)
- She says, "Thank you" for almost everything and is starting to also add "Please" and "No, Thank You" to her repertoire.
- She loves to "cook." In fact, this is how 80%+ of her play pans out. (No pun intended.) She usually "makes" soup, dishes it out on to various "plates" and serves it to all of us complete with spoons.
- She understands 'Canal etiquette,' meaning she automatically moves aside to allow other people to pass when we are walking there (e.g. bikers, runners).
- When playing with other children (not Piper) she is always polite enough to give them back their toys when they get upset about sharing.
- She knows the moon, stars, sun, rain and wind and has now started telling me when it's light or dark outside and when it's raining.
- She loves to draw with any medium she is given. She is also particularly fond of gluing things into a collage and wiping the glue all over herself.
- She is intensely musical. She dances and sings every day, plays one of the various instruments we have (harmonicas, recorders, drums) and loves movies with music in them. I don't ever want this passion to be stifled.

I'm currently taking a class at my church and this past Sunday, one thing spoken by the teacher really struck me (though I unfortunately must paraphrase because I didn't write it down).

If you give a child blocks with letters on them, the child has infinite possibilities. When you teach them to spell, their possibilities are suddenly limited, restricted. This is how I feel about Heidi "knowing her numbers and colors." Right now, she has endless possibility in her life. She has the rest of her life to conform to the rules society imposes on her and know the things she's "supposed to know." I will not limit her potential (yet) with these finite rules.

Often, when I ask her what a specific color is, she says, "color." It wasn't until just the other day that it hit me just how ingenious this is. Of course it's color! Does knowing which color it is make the finger paint any squishier in her fingers? Does it make the markers any more fun to play with or the crayons any less vibrant? If there were no names for colors, would we know their distinctions any less? It is color; it doesn't have to be anything else.

So no, my daughter can't count to ten because my daughter is limitless.


  1. :-) I hate the "milestones" the pediatrics offices impose. Our first pediatrician told us Colin "failed" some stupid test-we had to fill out a paper that said things like "if you put a cheerio in a clear container does he try to get it out." Stupid. Heidi is learning about life, and that's what's important. Tell her Colin says hi!

  2. Exactly! I think its a horrible thing to tell someone that a child so young "failed." Maybe he didn't want the cheerio?? Yeesh!

    Heidi says 'Hi!' back!

  3. LOL well my answer was who the heck puts a cheerio in a clear container to see if their kid will fish it out?

  4. Ugh...what a butthead (the pediatrician, of course)!

    What I see from this is that your daughter is an amazing little girl - and lucky to have you as a mama. :D

    I'll be keeping this in mind as my little one grows...

  5. I just wrote a really long comment and then it didn't go through!

    Basically, I love this post! I wrote on the same topic for an upcoming Hobo Mama guest post so stay tuned!

  6. My 2 year old can't do any of those things you listed. She can't count to 10, she can't count to 6, she can't count at all. She can make sounds that mimic the cadence of counting, but she doesn't say any actual numbers. She does know a few colors, particularly blue because she knows and loves blueberries. Animals - she knows dog and cat and frog. All vehicles are cars.

    My daughter is developmentally delayed and has been in early intervention for over a year now. But the reason we got evaluated for EI in the first place was because at her well-child checkup, her doc asked me a bunch of "is she doing this or that" questions, and she wasn't doing any of them.

    So that's why they ask that, to catch kids like mine and get them some extra help. We've done lots of evals for EI where they test her on whether she does things like try to get an object out of a clear container, or find an object hidden under a cloth. If she can't do something, will she try to use a tool (such as, if an object she wants is under the couch where she can't reach it, will she find something to try to fish it out with). These tests don't look at her knowledge of facts (ie numbers, colors, animal names), but rather her cognitive skills.

    I also just wanted to say that bugs are animals. I mean, they aren't plants! Perhaps you were thinking of vertebrates?

  7. Also, sometimes there are things they ask me about which she can't do, but I attribute it to our lifestyle and not her cognitive abilities. For example, when they were surprised that she didn't say the word "No", I told them that she doesn't really hear that word very much because of the way we parent. When they asked if she slept through the night independently, I told them that we co-sleep by choice, so it's not an issue. In these cases, they have always noted on their report that there was a valid reason why she doesn't do these things. If you just tell your doc that your child doesn't count to 10 because it is not something that you have emphasized at home, then I would think they would take that into account in the evaluation.

  8. Charise, I too have an upcoming guest post at Hobo Mama...so we'll see when that appears :)

    Alicia I'm sure that must be a difficult thing for your family. I know that those questions are developmentally related, but it certainly doesn't help the parents of children who don't do that. Especially if the child lives in a home with parents different from us, he/she might then face added pressure to perform up to the standard set by other children with different circumstances.

    At our previous doctor, when Heidi was very little and they asked me if she could clap yet, I did tell them no because I didn't clap around her at all...so there was no way for her to know it. The second time around, I taught Piper how to clap early, just for fun.

    I don't really know what I was thinking about bugs...maybe that I just don't like them very much and wanted to exclude them from the group "animals" ...... that's not nice though. :)

  9. Yes, this is ridiculous. I tell people... "just because a doctor said it doesn't mean its right or holds any truth" This is why I DON'T talk Zuri to the doctor for so called "check ups.." in the first place. I can clearly see with my own eyes how amazing she is. Yes we still breastfeed, co-sleep, cloth diaper/Elimination communication, don't feed milk ;) non-vax. These are the choice I know in my heart are best for my baby and no one will tell me different. The best advise it to just go with YOUR instincts as a parent and a mother, they are there for a reason... Who cares if our babies don't know what "candy" is or what milk tastes like lol They are happy and healthy and thats ALL that matter right? ;)

  10. Absolutely, Amy! I really strive to follow my gut in terms of everything, especially with them, and I don't feel that there's anything wrong with not counting to ten right now when I see her growing and changing in so many ways every day. When she wants to know how to count, she'll be able to.

  11. We don't do those well-child check ups. Our mainstream ped sees us when we're sick and have already been through our home remedies and our family ND. So, we don't see her often. But, we're always asked for their checklist.

    It is exactly your thinking that has led us to unschooling/homeschooling. Our kids are voracious learners from birth. Some things they learn quickly. Some they learn slowly. And in between for others. I hope to keep their love of learning intact and not worry about how they measure up against a mandatory checklist

  12. Actually, that last sentence, I'd like to replace mandatory with arbitrary :)

  13. I think that is a route I want to take Zoie. I'd actually like to do away with the doctor entirely and just find a good chiropractor. That's how I was for the greater part of my life..once my vaccines were finished (my mom didn't give me all of them) I only saw the chiropractor when I was sick, which wasn't very often anyway.

    I am also terribly interested in homeschooling, more so unschooling, but the biggest obstacle I have to that is the individual I'm married to... :)

  14. I enjoyed this post! (Thanks, HoboMama, for sending me to it!) I'm also the parent of a developmentally delayed baby, and so I've been through a bunch of these questionaires. I think there's a good reason behind them, although the tone that doctors take is sometimes (unfortunately, in my mind) a bit judgmental, as though, if you child can't count to ten, that means SOMETHING IS WRONG (TM).

    So a question may be irrelevant because you've never actually tried to teach your child that thing (for example, we were asked if Joe recognizes body parts - I was like, I've never tried to teach him body parts, so why would he?). But the question is aimed to looked at whether your child has a cognitive difficulty in that area - have you tried to teach them, but they never seem to pick it up.

    Your daughter sounds delightfully on-track. And I'm hardly a great defender of developmental questionaires! However, there is a purpose to them. If the question is not applicable because of your style or culture, great. But if your child is still not talking at 2 and you're trying to figure out why, they can be a helpful tool. :-)

  15. In that second paragraph, I clearly got tangled - I just meant, the questionnaires are not meant to be absolute. It's more of a "if you answer no to five questions, perhaps you should investigate further" kind of thing. :-)

  16. Sasha is nearly 2 and can (amazingly!) count to ten! However, she has always loved to count (and before that pretend to count with the microwave. She does not seem to be very artistic so far, though. When coloring, she wants someone right there with her, doing a bit of it themselves. She hasn't tried glue or paint yet.

    Oh, and she knows a lot of the other things you list (animals and most vehicles anyway), but she does NOT understand canal etiquette. (With our tiny home, I wish she did!)

    She was an early walker and a late talker. I like to think that doctors take these sorts of things into account. I know ours did. But we've since stopped going for "well child" visits. We don't do vax and I can keep up with her development, so I just didn't see the point.

    I guess my point, though, is that kids definitely go at their own pace based on their own interests.

  17. Oh, but I *love* what you say about not imposing limits!!

  18. I totally get what you're saying. I think part of my problem is that I am fairly new to this doctor and I do not very much enjoy the practice in general because there are about 10 doctors and a very busy atmosphere. It's almost like more of a hospital than a doctor's office. I miss the first doctor we had, where we used to live, because he was the only person in his practice it it felt a lot more personal and respectful (minus one of the receptionists :) ). I was also thrown by the 3rd degree I was given because neither of my kids drink milk and I had to explain that they receive plenty of sources of vitamin D, calcium and protein without it.

    [I was in no way trying to offend anyone who is the parent of a child that has had developmental difficulty (just throwing that out there) because I can understand just how difficult that must be.]

    And thank you both!!

  19. I don't think her not knowing colors or to count to 10 is bad at all, especially since she knows so much other stuff. Doctors just use general questions because they can't just ask "Well, what does she know?" She has an impressive repertoire already built at 2.5!

    Standardized questions can be good, but, as I'm sure my parents can attest to with me, not every kid fits that little mold. They wanted to hold me back in Kindergarten for some silly stuff. They taught us the days of the week with Monday first; I always started with Sunday (that's how it is on most calendars!) There were a lot of instances where my parents had to ask "Well, does she know [X]?" Teacher: "Well... not how we want her to..." Parents: "But she knows it?" Teacher: "Yes..." Parents: "So, WTF?" (Okay, my parents never would have said WTF...) My doctor just called me quirky and said I would probably be smart.

  20. Hahahaha! I'm sure your parents were thinking it though! :)

  21. Love this post...my daughter is (I think) a little advanced for her age but this can lead to some members of my family 'showing off' her skills in front of others. Like 'oh look she can read all these books from memory, she can sing the national anthem, she can sign abcs, blah, blah,blah...' I'm all for boosting my child's capabilities and making her feel proud of what she knows but in a way that follows her unique interests and not what people think she should be doing or what they find a novelty. I also do have to watch for this tendency in myself as I may sometimes try to 'prove' how well she is doing because people think it's so strange that we homeschool.

    Glad I don't ever see a pediatrician unless it's an emergency!

    Hope you do convince your partner to support your homeschooling/unschooling desires.

  22. oh and I forgot to say I love all the things you list that your daughter CAN do. It's so lovely to read about all her skills (love Canal Etiquette) and know that you are such a tuned in parent to have her exposed to so many wonderful things and recognise all of her achievements step by step.

  23. Thank you, Terri! :) I'm vaguely guilty of things like that myself, for the same reasons. For some reason, sometimes I feel like I need to prove my ability to parent by proving that my children actually do know some things. It's something I need to work on.

  24. I love this, thank you. And Heidi just shines...

  25. Those questions are silly! I am lucky that my pediatrician doesn't ask that sort of thing and is tolerant of our diet differences. I'd say she was perfect except for the fact that she pushes vaccines.

    1. Fortunately, Camille, the last time we were there they didn't even ask if she drank milk! I was so pleased that maybe they finally got the message :)