Observation: The Only Reliable Tool for New Parents

In the first year of a child’s life, observation represents the only process to diagnose a potential problem. Watch (and read) closely.

They do not give out manuals about babies when you leave the hospital, nor are they born with instructions.

I recall how helpful and friendly our nurses were when our son, Connor, was less than a day old. Despite managing three tasks at once, they would blurt out something extremely helpful. Whether it was changing a diaper, how to burp an infant after feeding or simply how to hold a skinny and naked seven-pound chicken, they helped.

And it was apparent by the tone in their voice that, 48 hours after being born, we had best get our act together. We were scheduled to be discharged from the hospital.

Here’s some advice to share that may help during the first year of your child’s life. It would have come in handy for both my wife and I and it represents the first page in the (non-existent) baby-instruction manual.

They can’t tell you what’s wrong… So… observe.

The first sign something was off with our son happened on day #2 of our parenting lives. I take zero credit in this particular observation. My wife noticed how our son’s eyes were off… slightly. He had a lazy eye, an extremely mild movement comparing one eye to the next that did not occur frequently. I never caught it.

Have I not mentioned that my wife is a rock-star mom? I have to note this, given her maternal instincts went into overdrive the moment she was baptized as a parent. We are also an adoptive family, so the playbook she had to work with was not clear cut; we had to figure things out about our son that did not genetically stem from ourselves or relatives.

Back to our son’s eyesight. She caught the lazy eye again a few times during the month. Later, when we provided tummy time for our son, he was always cranky when placed on the carpet. He never observed the space immediately in front of him.

Flash forward to the time he’s six months old. Now, my wife observes, he doesn’t often reach for things. Sans the lazy eye, he makes eye contact when we’re in the distance but again, the natural response to reach, touch and grab things is not 100% immediate.

My wife’s friends tell him, ‘he’s a little slow, don’t worry about it.’ My wife did. She recalled from observing him closely, over the first eight months of his life, that something had always been off with his vision.

She did not sit idly by and took action based on… observation. That’s the only thing parents have to work with at this stage until they can speak with some level of cognitive ability.

The appointment and examination she scheduled with our son’s eye doctor validated her concerns. After his eyes were dilated in order to get a clear view of his retina, he was diagnosed as being far-sighted. Thus, he was unable to see things clearly close at hand. In fact, his prescription was + 4.0! His lenses had to correct his vision by 4x so he could see normally.

I was not there when they put his glasses on for the first time, but according to my wife, it was a true moment of clarity. I found a video that relates to the story of our son’s experience.

Don’t be concerned if an observation you make about your child is alarming, even a minor one. Keep an eye on it (no pun intended) and if you find a pattern, speak up and tackle it together with your spouse.

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