Over the years, there has been one question I am asked more than any other: “How old is he?”
Why the interest? It’s normal for people to question something which doesn’t add up in their mind. He was still so tiny when he began walking and talking. This seemed to draw quite a bit of attention from others and it was not uncommon for people to follow us through the mall or grocery store or park. It was strange to me that he received so much attention, People wanted to talk with him, or would ask questions about him, even ask to shake his hand. The comment was usually the same, “He’s so smart, how old is he?” This is understandable, as it’s almost like an illusion to them: a tiny child, independent in many ways and functioning as a seemingly older child would. Even holding conversations with adults. Once I answer the age question, I could see the pause while their brain catches up and they figure it out. Of course, being his mom, I liked to think that he was this super intelligent prodigy.
My brother in law would say, “All moms think that way about their own child.” True, we do. But it wasn’t always so. I was cautioned early on not to compare my baby against other babies. Children with Achondroplasia have their own time scale to reach various milestones. While they may not walk until they are 16 or 24 or even 28 months, this is within normal range for them. Their bodies are built much differently than the average stature “proportionate” child, so they naturally do things differently and at different stages. Still, it is not worrisome in the least unless they fall beyond that expected range.
By the time he was 3 or 4, I noticed him doing things that seemed mature for his age. He loved classical music, mazes, and reading. When I read to him from the classics, he’d ask questions — real questions. It is no secret that I am big on education, and starting early. I thought I must be doing a pretty good job then. Until one day, I found out that nature had more to do with it than nurture.
There was a day when he wasn’t yet 4 and a half. We were at the doctor for an ear infection, these are very common in children with Achondroplasia. Because Jax never complained about them, I had to bring him to the doctor if I suspected one. So I guess you could say he was “a regular” at the clinic. My guess was correct and he was put on antibiotics. The visit went pretty quick and I had a minute to discuss a journal I had sent to the doctor. Achondroplasia is a rare condition and many doctors, especially in the suburbs, are not familiar with it. This doctor was good enough to read what I would send him.
As we talked, Jax played with the blood pressure cuffs, seemingly oblivious to what we were discussing. Without warning, he interrupted the doctor.
“Excuse me, hun?” Asked the doctor.
Jax told him he had pronounced a word wrong and corrected him. The doctor chuckled, because it was a a rather lengthy medical term. He patted him on the head and said, “Oh boy, you are a cute one!”
This did not sit well with my four year old. He lowered his eyebrows and stomped out of the room. The doctor and I followed. Jax had crossed the hallway to the nurses’ desks and stood looking up at a computer at the counter.
“May I have a chair please?” He said stubbornly.
The nurses were a little shocked and so obliged. By this time the doctor and I were already watching him and went to his side to be sure he didn’t fall as he climbed up. He was fiddling with the keyboard, flustered because it wasn’t like our computer at home. So the doctor pulled up a screen and began typing in a search for the word Jax had corrected him on. After the first 5 letters, the word popped up and my boy pointed at the screen with indignation.
“There, right there. See this?” He said.
I remained quiet with the nurses, our eyebrows raised. The doctor looked at the screen and looked at me pleased, rather than offended . “You need to have his I.Q. tested.” He said. “I’ll send you over to the University.” Then he apologized to Jax as he lifted him down from the chair. “You are going to be something special one day.” He said to him.
We did go and discovered he was well into the gifted area. I was very happy for him, to say the least. Even though it is a bit humbling when your child’s IQ exceeds your own.
………. I told him not to let it go to his head.