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Milestones are Movable

The field of sweet potatoes should have been ready to dig 105 days after the sprouts were transplanted. That’s if it were a normal growing season. It hasn’t been.

We haven’t had rain on the farm since Hurricane Dorian in September. With rain, they would have been ready to dig two weeks ago. Without rain, the sweet potatoes are growing slower. We don’t want to dig them too early because they won’t be big enough to grade a U.S. Number 1 – the top grade and size we get paid the most money for. Without rain, the ground is hard, making plowing the land to turn the roots on top of the soil more difficult – especially if they are planted in soil that isn’t sandy. 

We see it time and time again in agriculture. In perfect conditions, a crop will be ready to harvest in a set number of days. Rarely do we see perfect growing conditions. 

It’s that way in life, too. Once I became a mom, I realized how many milestones there are for children. Some are set by the medical community; some are set by the parent community. 

He should have teeth by 6 months. Walking by 12 months. Saying a certain amount of words by 2 years old. Be potty trained by 24 months old. Riding a bike, playing t-ball, reading. The list goes on and on.    

The thing is, each child is different. These milestones are important, but just because a child doesn’t reach it by a set time doesn’t mean he or she never will. This is true for all kids, but more so when your child is exceptional.

My oldest son has autism. He walked just after he turned 1. He said “Broom Broom” (for the tractor) “Mama” and “Dada.” Then he stopped meeting milestones and regressing. At 18 months old, we were concerned, not just by his silence but other behaviors. By his second birthda,y we suspected autism. Just after he turned 3, we received an official diagnosis.

One of the first Autism Society of NC trainings I went to, I learned that he could still reach milestones, but it would be on his own time. The teacher, a mother of an autistic son, talked about how her son got his driver’s license but not until he was 20. He went to college, but not at 18. He was successful, but his timetable for success was different.

Our son is successful, but his success looks different than his brothers. And that’s OK. He will reach milestones when he’s ready, with support and the right conditions. This is also true for his brothers. All our kids need support and the right conditions to grow, learn, and meet their full potential.

The same is true for our crops. The sweet potatoes we are waiting on will reach the right size with time or with rain. It’s another reminder of how milestones can be a guide – not an absolute. 

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