Milestones and Timelines

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

Milestones and Timelines

When my daughter was a baby, I vividly remember the sadness I felt in receiving the developmental milestones handouts at her routine pediatric checkups. Colorful sheets with indications of what children should be doing at certain stages were stark reminders of how far behind we were.

The expectations printed in black and white only brought me heartache and grief. Each item that we couldn’t check off felt like a firm punch to the gut.

Delays and possible “nevers” felt heavy in those early days. At each appointment, I would review the sheet given to me by the nurse, feeling that familiar sting, all over again.

Holding back tears, I would read all the behavioral and physical checkpoints at which my daughter had not arrived. Milestones like holding her head up, crawling, waving “bye-bye”, saying her first word, and taking her first independent steps seemed so very far out of reach. They were miles away.

Thankfully, as my daughter grew, I realized how unimportant those checklists were.

At every visit, I would quietly wish that the nurse would just forget and skip over the routine of handing me a copy. In time, I learned to simply fold that sheet of paper and tuck it away in our diaper bag. Numbers didn’t matter. The “shoulds” became irrelevant. I knew from her first breath that my child was a miracle and that her being here, with her family, was enough. We were on our own course, and she would follow her own path.

With early intervention, a plethora of dedicated therapies, and lots of love, she is a now a thriving 12-year-old.

She began learning to hold her head up at six months.

She amazed us and made us so proud when she crawled at two years. I cried happy tears when she waved “bye-bye” at age 11. It’s magical every time I hear her say “Hey Da-Da”; her first and only words that came many years after the toddler era.

She’s not yet taken her first independent steps, but it’s a goal that we’ll continue to work towards. In the meantime, she takes my breath away with every step she takes with her walker.

I’m in awe of all the incredible feats that she’s mastered. It doesn’t matter how long it has taken to get here.

I’m grateful for of every inch forward, no matter the pace.

Kids are all unique and they will do things in their own time. When my son was two, he wasn’t speaking in sentences or chewing. At 19, his vocabulary far surpasses mine, and he eats whole pizzas in one sitting. He did big things, on his own timeline.

There are many milestones that children with more complex disabilities, like my daughter, will have to work so much harder to meet. Some may not come at all, and I’ve learned that’s ok too. At 12, she’s working on potty training; I couldn’t be more thrilled! She is moving her own mountains daily and she astonishes us with her fierce tenacity and courage.

It’s genuinely a relief to no longer be weighed down and burdened by timelines. They are insignificant in our world. Looking back on the early days, I see how very far we’ve come. This life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We’re in it for the long haul. We’ll keep going, inch by inch, and I will never take any bit of progress for granted.


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