Last month Bubs and I attended his two year development check. It was lovely. No, really it was. The health visitor was attentive, relaxed and encouraging; she didn’t so the ‘tick list’ thing that happened when we went for his 9-month check; best of all Bubs said the word ‘triceratops’ during our appointment… Oh yeah I’m winning at parenthood right now. #PunchTheAir.
The NHS and health visitors and all that are good and should be fought for. Obvs. What I am yet to appreciate it the big fat questionnaire that drops on your door mat a few weeks before.
Frequent readers may be familiar with my rant about the Ages and Stages Questionnaire over a year ago. Well, people, it hasn’t gone away! Nor has it got any less infuriatingly specific/patronising/unnecessary.
However nice they are, however much your rational mind tells you it’s all normal and fine, it’s hard to escape that squirming sense of failure, isn’t it?
Not so long ago a letter inviting me and Bubs to his two year development check dropped through our letterbox. While I am mostly past caring nowadays, these tests (which of course aren’t really test, just a series of assessed activities that are scored and produce an overall result which claims to have bearing on the level of my child’s development) do give rise to a ‘must do well’ mentality I could live without. There’s nothing quite like the prospect of sitting in front of a health professional and explaining why you’ve ticked the ‘not yet’ box on the Ages and Stages Questinnaire to induce a bit of parental neurosis.
My parental neurosis face.
What’s more, most health visitors I’ve spoken to think it’s a bit of a joke. So why is it even a thing??
Think I’m being unreasonable? Well here’s auick analysis of some of the 2-year ASQ’s most mind boggling aspects…
A cooperative toddler?
At the very beginning the 30-question itinerary (oh yeah, I counted), just after the bit suggesting we should ‘make completing this questionnaire a game that is fun for you and your child’ a helpful piece of text informs us:
At this age, many toddlers may not be cooperative when asked to do things.
#NoShitSherlock. It continues…
You may need to try the following activities with your child more than one time. If possible, try the activities when your child is cooperative. If your child can do the activity but refuses, mark yes for the item.
Oh, Dear Reader, where to start?! Bubs is often in a mildly cooperative mood, but the idea that this state of play would necessarily lead to him completing specific tasks at my request seriously underestimates the will and imagination of a toddler. Also, I would imagine that most parents don’t need to be told not to try and make their little one line four blocks in up in a row when they are feeling ‘uncooperative’ (i.e. being a grumpy little so and so).
And what’s all this about my child being able to do an activity but refusing? If I knew he could do the activity I would have ticked the box already, I do have a life to lead you know! So how do I know if he can do it if he hasn’t done it? I am not into speculation or bending the truth, but when I ticked ‘not yet’ on his nine months development check it was deemed his problem solving skills needed monitoring. They didn’t. So perhaps this time I’ll be a bit more generous…
Seven, one-inch blocks.
‘Does your child stack seven small blocks or toys on top of each other by herself? (You could also use spoons of thread, small boxes, or toys that are about 1 inch in size)’
This one is particularly fascinating to me. Why seven? Why not six or eight? It just seems a bit arbitrary me, but I sort of like the idea that some researcher somewhere has found that balancing precisely seven, one inch blocks is the benchmark of two-year-old block-building potential.
This block is precisely 1 inch. Nailed it. No pun intended.
As you all know I am a diligent and caring parent, and so I duly selected seven small building blocks for bobs to build a tower with. When he was in a cooperative mood, I am invited him to build said tower, I invited him to build a tower probably three times. But he didn’t, he prefers to knock them down. Now, I know he has the motor skills to build a five block tower and if he really had to (which would in no scenario be the case) he could probably stack seven. So I’m going to tick yes, but is that a lie? To be honest, marking the ‘sometimes’ box would feel more duplicitous, because he never
does it but he could,
Good Lord, I’m getting palpitations already.
Elementary jewellery making
‘Can your child string small items such as beads, macaroni, or pasta wagon wheels into a string or shoelace?’
Does anyone in England know what the fuck a pasta wagon wheel is? And is this something that any 24 month old child can do? (gloating parents feel free to comment below)
My theory on this one is that it is a conspiracy by child labour lobbies to see if we can get toddlers making Primark necklaces. My answer would be no. I did try, good girl that I am, but my boy could not have had less interest or ability with regards to this one. However, I did fashion a rather attractive penne necklace whilst trying.
While we are on the subject, there is a MAJOR difference between a piece of string and a shoelace. A shoelace has that closed thingy on the end which makes it much easier to thread through holes. And I don’t mind admitting that I am not the sort of person who has spare shoe laces in my house, I never will be. I’ve accepted that about myself.
When we went to the check she had a shoelace and a cotton reel. Now that’s just cheating.
Return of the Cheerio
Undoubtedly the most infuriating thing about this questionnaire is its unashamed Americanness. No offence to my lovely readers across the pond; I have nothing against the US per se, but the fact that no one has even bothered to CHANGE THE BLOODY DATES AROUND makes me incandescent. We are talking steam out of the ears, batshit crazy.
Another steadfast American quirk is this survey is commitment to mentioning Cheerios wherever possible.
After a crumb or Cheerio is dropped into a small, clear bottle, does your child turn the bottle upside down to dump out the crumb or Cheerio?
Why not just say ‘crumb’ and leave it at that? Was the additional example of a branded breakfast cereal really necessary? Apparently in the US wholegrain, sugarfree Cheerios are a staple of little ones’ diets, but here they don’t really exist. And any way, I’d rather my child’s welfare be kept well clear of the selfish shitturd of a corporation that is Nestlé, thank you very much.
What we really want to know
I am 100% sure that my lovely, experienced, knowledgable health visitor didn’t need me to fill in this comically specific questionnaire in order to assess Bubs. In fact I imagine being given a tick list to fill in is more irksome than anything. My theory is that there are two things we really need to know from these check ups, and she gave me both:
First and foremost, we want our child to meet and interact with a healthcare professional and for said professional to confirm that they’re happy and healthy and making reasonable progress towards growing up into big boys and girls.
Secondly, we’d really like a parenting approval stamp, please. A reassurance that our witless meanderings through parenthood haven’t stunted any growth or caused irreparable castastrophy. We want to be told we are okay, as well as our children. An acknowledgement of this every now and again is really good for our mental health and confidence, which is constantly undermined by the countless Daily Mail articles and internet forums that tell us how and how not to parent our own children. (FYI, you’re doing it all wrong)
So go to the check, and listen to your health visitor, but take the 1 inch blocks and Cheerios with a pinch of salt, you’ll be all the saner for it.