Those of you with young children will no doubt be aware that, every so often, they are required to undergo certain developmental checks, to ensure that they are advancing as expected for a child of their age.
Naturally, these tests have been devised by a team of so-called ‘experts’, who have no doubt spent hours huddled together in a darkened room, consuming their own bodyweight in biscuits, in order to compile what they believe to be the definitive guide to the average child. But, guess what folks – all children are different.
As a result, it strikes me that these tests aren’t all that helpful (backed up by the fact our youngest son, Isaac, underwent the two-year check last week, refused to do anything whatsoever – opting instead to curl up into a silent ball in my wife’s lap – yet he still passed), and I have to question the reasoning behind them.
In fact, I have just searched online to see who originally designed the test (I initially starting typing ‘Healthy Child Test’ into Google, but only got as far as ‘Health Chi…’ before it started suggesting all kinds of delicious – and nutritious – chicken dishes, and I got a bit distracted), and one of the leading advocates was a Dr Sheila Shribman. If you are unfamiliar with Dr Shribman, and I rather suspect you are, she looks like this:
Now, not only does ‘Shribman’ sound like the worst fucking superhero of all time (‘Thank goodness you’re here, Shribman, we’ve been trying to reach you on the Shribphone for hours….’), but I’m not convinced Margaret Mountford’s more-serious-looking sister is the best ‘poster girl’ for the campaign. She looks terrifying.
(Side note: I’ve just searched ‘Shrib’ online out of curiosity, to see what kind of superhero she might be, and one definition – admittedly on the wholly unreliable Urban Dictionary site – is genuinely ‘a would-be smart-ass’. I laughed so much, I swear a little wee came out).
Look, I’m sure The Shribster is an excellent mother (assuming she has children, of course, as it would be rather hypocritical of her to lecture everyone else on parenting, if she hasn’t experienced the joys herself), but, well, just look at her. All I’m saying is, if it later turns she has a body buried under her patio, I won’t be at all surprised. Plus, I have nothing against people with cats, but I bet she has hundreds of them.
Now, where was I? Oh, yes.
I understand that local authorities have a responsibility to ensure children are healthy and happy, and are developing into well-rounded human beings in a loving environment, but having just experienced the two-year development check with Isaac, I can’t help thinking it is somewhat unrealistic, outdated (despite only being revised a few years ago) and, well, not all that relevant.
Obviously the tests are only designed to be an indication of certain factors in a child’s development, and the experts seem to accept that there are various parameters – so that parents won’t be arrested, or have their grossly inadequate children taken away from them, if they fail (which is for the best really, considering Isaac’s recent performance) – but I still feel that they could have given greater consideration to the real world, and not focused on a series of wholly impractical challenges.
Let me give you some examples.
One of the questions, is whether your two-year old can jump. Now, I can see why this might be helpful in later life, and the experts are probably just checking that there is nothing wrong with your child’s lower limbs, but Isaac is enough of a dangerous threat as it is, without giving him extra powers of escape. Besides, if we teach him to jump, the first thing he is going to do is deliberately land on my foot, so I’m not all that concerned that he presently thinks ‘jumping’ is merely squatting down and then standing up again.
The same goes for ‘can your child walk up the stairs?’ No, he cannot. In fairness, this is primarily because his legs are currently too short (he’s two, remember?), but, at the same time, we have always been of the view that stairs can be quite hazardous for children. That’s why we have stair gates, to stop our boys from throwing themselves – or each other – down them. Why would you want to encourage a two-year old to walk up the stairs? Should I be teaching him how to get up a ladder into the loft too? At least that way he could be useful twice a year by retrieving – and then storing away – the Christmas tree.
And, while we’re on the subject of intentionally placing your son or daughter in harm’s way for the purposes of the test, consider this one: Can your child thread beads onto a shoelace? Honestly, I have no idea. This is partly because our 1970s craft box is all out of beads and shoelaces at the moment, but mostly because we were under the impression that parents were supposed to keep small, hard objects away from children, on account of the fact 94% of the stuff they can get their hands on ends up in their fucking mouth? Jesus wept.
If the experts are that intent on monitoring our children via a series of potentially fatal activities, I might drop them a line and suggest some of the following equally inappropriate additions:
- Can your child work an electric drill?
- Can your child use a craft knife, to cut around a picture of a mutilated corpse?
- When playing darts, can your child throw a treble twenty?
- Can your child use a BBQ?
- Can your child saw a plank of wood in two?
- When downing a shot of Tequila, does your child reach for the salt first, or the lime?
- Is your child able to mow the lawn?
- Can you child abseil from a top floor window using only a series of bed sheets tied together?
I could go on, but suspect you get my point.
The thing is, I am all for checking a child’s development, and I am sure there is some very good scientific reasoning behind each of the daft challenges they want your child to complete (after all, everyone questioned Mr Miyagi’s methods in The Karate Kid, when he had Daniel painting the fence and waxing his car, and look how that turned out) but I can’t help thinking there are more suitable tests for the modern toddler to achieve.
So, since they never consulted me when devising the two year development check (can’t imagine why), I’ve had a go at creating my own, based on some recent experiences with Isaac – who is, after all, a healthy and happy (yet inherently evil) little boy:
Is your child able to spot a Peppa Pig toy or book, from the other side of a shop?
Can your child hear the word ‘snack’ or ‘cookie’ from a different floor of the house? If you live in a bungalow, cottage or caravan, try whispering the word from behind a closed door.
Communication and Language
Whilst driving, beep your car’s horn, before immediately shouting ‘stupid woman’ at the nearest vehicle. Is your child able to recognise this phrase, and then identify the most embarrassing situations in which to repeat it constantly?
Is your child able to pass the blame for something they shouldn’t have done onto someone else? For example:
- If told off for bad behaviour, are they able to recognise that another child (particularly a sibling) is their best bet for avoiding punishment themselves?
- Should your son or daughter be an only child, or in the event their sibling is clearly not at fault, are they able to adapt the situation and blame one of the children from nursery or playgroup, even if that child happens to be over two hundred miles away at the time of the incident?
- Using problem solving skills, is your child able to recognise that, when blaming someone else for their own flatulence, the dog is unable to protest his innocence, and is therefore the most suitable target?
When building a tower of blocks, is your child able to recognise that violently destroying the tower is infinitely more gratifying, and that this gratification remains the same no matter how many times the tower is rebuilt by a parent?
Can your son or daughter work an iPad?
Can they watch you input the passcode to unlock your mobile phone, in order to access the device themselves when you aren’t paying attention?
Is your child able to send an encrypted text message to someone in your address book, identifying those persons you haven’t spoken to in years?
Can your child set the subtitles on a television, and then change them into an unrecognisable language (which, having spent an hour online, you finally narrow down to ‘something Scandinavian?’), before ensuring that there is no feasible way of turning them off again?
Is your child able to launch an item (for example, their dummy) into your breakfast cereal (for example, the Weetabix you have just lovingly prepared and sat down to) from their highchair on the other side of the kitchen?
Can your son or daughter adapt their method of dining, to insist on using a fork to eat cereal, or a knife to eat baked beans?
Can your son or daughter take on a child several years their senior, pin them to the carpet, and then beat the living shit out of them?
When co-sleeping, is your child able to recognise that, in order to ensure optimum space for themselves, the appropriate position to adopt is ‘angry starfish’, and that this position can be best defended by thrusting a foot towards any would-be intruders, aiming in particular for the softer, more vulnerable, body parts (such as reproductive organs)?
Finally, is your child able to recognise that, when behaving like a little shit, they are able to avoid any repercussions by adopting the cutest smile you have ever seen, rendering you utterly helpless?