I wonder if you’ll forgive a digression from my usual blog posts so that I can tell you all about our first raspberry this year?  It will link to child development too – I promise you.

Firstfruits of 2016!
Firstfruits of 2016!

What prompted this blog post was a conversation with my customers on Monday this week as we sat around drinking tea and eating croissants with the children while it poured with rain outside.  I was telling them how sorry I was that we couldn’t play outside this week but that the garden was lovely this time of year, and that the raspberries had started to come through, although I added that they were late this year – I hadn’t seen any ripe ones yet.
Later that day, when the sun finally did come out, I was enjoying the garden with my children and my daughter suddenly shouted with delight.

“Mom, mom, I’ve found a raspberry”.

I was about to reply that there were lots of raspberries but that none of them were ripe yet, when she added.

“It’s ripe.  Can we pick it?”

I went and had a look, and sure enough, tucked away behind the netting, where it was sheltered and warm, was our first ripe raspberry.  We gently picked it, took it to the kitchen table, and I made the children wait while I took the photo you can see above.  Then we split it three ways.  The taste of summer!
So why, you ask, am I telling you about it?
Well, it’s because it reminded me of a truth I have come to recognise and enjoy while bringing up my little ones.

They surprise me.

As soon as I start to think they can’t do something or to accept anything negative that other people have said about them – that they will struggle with this or that or the other, or they are behind with this, or not as good as others at that – they suddenly seem to be able to do something that they couldn’t do the day before.  Whether it’s as good as they ‘should’ be, or not, the fact is they make some sort of step in the right direction of growing or maturing in some way and, more often than not, it’s in direct contrast to whatever someone else has said about them or what I have come to believe about them.
I had an example of this with regard to my son yesterday.  I was talking with my friend about the development of writing skills in children and saying that I had read children were supposed to be able to write some letters by his age, and I was a bit worried that my little boy wasn’t interested in this.  We were having a discussion about how to develop these skills and discussing ideas for encouraging gross motor skills, which would transfer to fine motor skills – the sort of discussion you get when you put together two people with an interest in child development.  Literally half an hour later, he was playing on kids’ mode on my phone and using an app where he could draw with his finger as if he was drawing in sand.  He drew a shape that looked like this:
Pauls p
And turned to me and said

“That’s a P”

Ok, I know it’s not quite a P, but it’s nearly there.  And it’s the first letter of his name.  My little son, proving me wrong once again.
Anyway, this got me to thinking about my raspberries, and what I had said about them – that they were ‘late’ this year.  On reflection, who I am to say when my raspberries should be ripe?  Different years are different – I might have an expectation of what might happen based on experience from previous years, and I know that some years we were eating raspberries from June onwards, but actually, the raspberries will be ready when they are ready, and I can be patient.
So from raspberries to child development, as I promised.  Patience is an amazing quality when it comes to taking care of children.  We can provide them with all sorts of lovely activities and experiences, and they will enjoy them.  However, we can’t make them be able to do something they are not ready to do.  They will do things when they are ready to do them, and often they will surprise us by suddenly being ready.  It may be absolutely nothing to do with what we have done for them – they have simply matured  to the point where they can now do something they could not do before.  And it can happen so suddenly that we almost miss it.
We can get so discouraged about our children at times, especially if they are not doing something that they ‘should’ be able to do by now according to our cultural or social, or even ‘scientific’ expectations and norms.  With this post, I want to encourage you to look out for and celebrate each new thing that your child can do, no matter where they are ‘supposed’ to be in terms of their development and especially if it’s something you or someone else thought they couldn’t do.  Celebrate each ripe raspberry of your child’s development, no matter how ‘early’ or ‘late’ it is, and on those days when you feel disheartened, remember that a new surprise is just around the corner.