'Kindy called my kid's behaviour a 'developmental milestone.' My gut instinct said otherwise.'

“Dinner is on the table; stop tackling your little brother,” I barked for the third time in as many minutes. Bailey, our 4-year-old boy, had stopped listening at daycare and only sporadically listened to us at home.

Gut feel as a dad was that something was wrong at a deeper level. In hindsight, I should have followed that parental gut instinct… Mr Whippy was even ignored as he parked right out front!

During Monday afternoon pickup, a Kindy teacher suggested their favourite little student was simply becoming independent and going through his next child developmental milestone.

Psst: for more real talk on parenting, check out our podcast This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

“What the f*** does that mean” I whispered under my breath as I smiled, nodded and stared blankly at a kid’s painting on the wall. It was a competent family portrait, but each member’s chin was connected directly to their chest.

Feeling inferior and a little upset, I panicked. As the teacher stared at me for a response, I blurted out “the neck is crucial to the anatomy, why do kids always miss it?”.

That evening I committed myself to literature in the hope of becoming a better parent. “What kind of parent doesn’t know about child developmental milestones?” I muttered sheepishly to my wife.

I sat up late reviewing every web forum in existence. If you have a remotely anxious bone in your body, those forums will grab a hold of that bone and inject it with 15 shots of caffeine.

As I wrapped up my due diligence around midnight, some scaremonger persuaded me to follow a series of tests that would certify our lad as a fully-functioning 4-year-old.


Assembled in the backyard the next morning, I squinted at the notes from this doomsdayer. My son similarly wiped his eyes in disbelief as we undertook a thorough cognitive and physical assessment:

Stand on one foot for more than 9 seconds.

Do a somersault and hop.

Walk up and down stairs without help.

Walk forward and backwards easily.

Peddle a tricycle.

Copy a triangle, circle, square, and other shapes.

Draw a person with a body.

Stack 10 or more blocks.

Use a fork and spoon.

Dress and undress, brush teeth, and take care of other personal needs without much help.

Sleep deprivation from the night prior started to kick in. I sipped coffee as my boy drew a person with a body (no neck) and nailed the other disciplines in what could only be described as a decathlon for 4-year-olds.

I felt stupid and helpless… despite our best efforts and trying to keep our sense of humour, we were struggling for answers. From what I could gather, it didn’t seem to be a behavioural trait nor a developmental milestone!

Fast forward a week and I was cuddling my little guy as he was carefully put under anaesthetic. Upon passing the decathlon but failing some simple hearing tests, our son was diagnosed with glue ear. The solution was grommets that would be inserted into the middle ear to drain the fluid and alleviate the pressure.


Were we guilty of leading a fast-paced life and glossing over our child’s health? How long had he been struggling?

There was a reflective feeling of guilt as our grommet was anaesthetised for his grommets. I was reduced to tears as he went under and broke down as I hugged my wife in the adjacent waiting room.

“Dinner is on the table; stop tackling your brother,” I only whispered just six days later. Bailey turned, smiled, released his brother from a chicken wing hold and sprinted to the table.

The fact I asked our child with glue ear to stand on one foot for 9 seconds is still a little heartbreaking. I’ve gained solace in the fact he would’ve won gold in that ridiculous decathlon and further peace in his overall health since the procedure.

Less than a week after having grommets and in a recent non-clinical but equally important hearing test; our little man could hear Mr Whippy from a suburb away.

As a parent I’m now going to trust my gut instincts. But for now, I’m focused on drawing tutorials…

This article originally appeared on the blog Wandering Ocean Eyes and has been republished with full permission.

You can see more from Brad and his family’s adventures on Instagram: @wanderingoceaneyes

00:00 / ???