Is It Time We All Stopped Over Monitoring Our Children?

We all want the best for our children, but at what point do we quit worrying and just let our kids be kids?

Whoever coined the phrase “ignorance is bliss” may have been on to something.  I once made the mistake of googling some medical symptoms I was having. The deeper I got into the plethora of information on wonderful sites like WebMD and Johns Hopkins, the sicker I began to feel. An hour later I began to regret not having “my affairs” in order. When I finally put the self- diagnosis aside and went to see my family doctor, he laughed and assured me I had simply suffered an allergic reaction and was not on death’s door. Ten minutes later I felt 100% better. My doctor also suggested that some information in the wrong hands (and minds) just wasn’t a good idea. So going forward I try to leave the medical diagnosis to him.

In the same vein, there’s something to be said for being a new parent, and a parent who did NOT read all the baby and toddler “How-To” parenting books. I kind of figured I would pick it up on a need-to-know basis, and it was convenient to let my wife look after some of those details, like when kids should transition to solid food, how much milk they need, and other developmental milestones. And I must say this practice worked very well for me the first time around. I was pretty carefree when it came to my son’s health and development. With perhaps a few exceptions, like our lengthy road to diaper training, I just figured the universe was unfolding as it should.

Maybe I’m suffering memory loss from years of sleep deprivation, but I don’t remember worrying about how and when my first born crawled, then walked. I was pretty oblivious to weight, height, and head size at the doctors’ visits. Granted, we were pretty lucky to be blessed with a remarkably healthy young lad. Now at seven (going on 20) he’s a pretty average kid. 

Rumour has it that the second child is easier. As experienced parents. we can relax because we have all the answers—or so the theory goes. And we know that kids are tougher than we thought they were the first time around.  In hindsight, I admit to being a little paranoid or at least overly cautious with the first child on some matters, like making formula. The measurements had to be very precise and we used only boiled distilled water. A chemist would have been impressed with my technique.

Now, with child #2, I am more relaxed about many things. The formula could be made practically blindfolded, and I haven’t bought distilled water in years. Perhaps I’m too tired to worry about the little things. With child #1 we always had the baby monitor on when the baby was sleeping. With #2 we didn’t bother buying one. I remember being at the store when toddler #2 dropped a toy. The person behind me in line kindly picked up the item, returned it, and informed me that the item was “dirty”. I replied that I wasn’t worried about my toddler being exposed to common dirt as it will probably help build her immune system. The cashier overheard our exchange, laughed, and commented: “It’s your second child, eh?” Indeed.

However, in our case, things are a little different with kid #2. This time around we adopted. The adoption process is all about gathering and documenting information. The underlying premise seems to be that tons of information results in a better outcome. So yes, with adoption comes a boat load of information—some helpful, some not so much. On the positive side, Children’s Aid does everything it can to get the medical history and information about the child and the birth mother, from any sources it can find.  But there are gaps in information, so we can’t be sure of everything. Science still doesn’t provide absolute answers or assurances. The answer to these gaps is “monitoring” her progress.  On an intellectual level, I understand this idea of close monitoring. The intention is certainly good, but it’s not without its negative side effects.

I am grateful that my daughter appears to be a healthy two-year-old with all the attitude to match. But in the year or so that she has been with us, we have followed a regimen of health monitoring that seems to be over the top. The pediatrician chosen by CAS was great, as was the first appointment and checkup I attended. She had a great demeanor and has been my daughter’s doctor since birth. When she got her first-year check- up, the doctor clearly saw my level of angst and reassured me that she was a healthy little girl. She winked and said, “I can assure you this child has received much more medical care than she requires because everyone is trying very hard to cover their collective butts.”

Those words from the doctor have stayed with me for over a year and I reminded myself of them as we fulfilled all the rigorous medical and developmental testing recommended by the authorities. It was a little intimidating going to a Neo-Natal Follow Clinic with a 12-month-old, 18-month-old, and two-year-old.    Watching experts test and evaluate your child is a unique experience. I have been much more alert at the doctor’s visits. The side effects have been a heightened awareness of when toddlers should be achieving certain milestones. Or should they? Are children so predictable and alike that they smile, crawl, walk, talk, and run at the same times? And if they don’t…then what?

I have to wonder if some of this heightened parental awareness is too much information, akin to my family doctor warning me against my own self- diagnosis. But now the genie is out of the bottle, I can’t help but compare when we’re at playgrounds and other kids of a similar age are present. Are those kids better at walking and talking? And so the questions begin. Does this mean special help is going to be needed? Does it mean there’s a problem? The honest answer is, I don’t know. In truth, I didn’t know that about my first child either. But much of this stuff just wasn’t on my radar. Over time I have come to realize that I am okay with not knowing. I don’t know if either of my kids will grow up to be top students with Ph.D.’s or not.

Raising kids is a great way to work through your fears by remembering to live one day at a time. I think it’s natural to have a certain level of angst about your kids’ future. It’s probably nature’s way of making us work a little harder with and for our kids. While I want the best for my children, I have no way of knowing what that will look like in five, 10 or 15 years. 

Once again, the life lesson here seems to be the ongoing battle to find balance. Balancing expectations, information, angst, and guilt is the goal. We can only put our best foot forward and let the results look after themselves. In the meantime, let’s just allow them to be kids.



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