You know the phrase: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.

I guess I have a big bold label on me say­ing – sucker!

Flags go up when each in turn your neigh­bours’ infants are con­stant­ly cry­ing (and you can hear them through closed win­dows); day after day, week after week. You start to ask your­self “Is that baby still cry­ing?” Then comes the day you realise that the tod­dler is out­side on her swing with her father near­by and you think ‘great, she’s not crying’.

But then as you’re pot­ter­ing in your gar­den gen­er­al­ly let­ting your thoughts and plans float around you as usu­al you realise you aren’t hear­ing ANY con­ver­sa­tion from over the fence. Even­tu­al­ly you realise that the father has been out­side with his child for more than 30 min­utes and said lit­tle or noth­ing to her!

It hasn’t been hard to recog­nise that the child was in a state of ner­vous pan­ic all the time, it showed in her face and her body. Then came the casu­al post hur­ri­cane gath­er­ing out­side our house with father and daugh­ter and anoth­er neighbour. 

I tried to com­mu­ni­cate with the child, she seemed respon­sive, if still ner­vous. When I sug­gest­ed she and I took a walk she came along, me talk­ing the whole while. I was real­ly check­ing to see how respon­sive she was even though she wasn’t talk­ing at 2+. I sug­gest­ed we cross the road and she shook her head ‘no’. That was a good sign and I com­plied with her wishes.

Even­tu­al­ly I went next door on occa­sion to do some child­care while the moth­er was out. Since I always car­ry toys and books with me it didn’t real­ly reg­is­ter that there were few toys or books around and that what was around hadn’t been kept in ‘sets’ – as in foam let­ters kept togeth­er, teacups and saucers and the like. I sug­gest­ed to the moth­er that the child was ready for crayons and paper “Just get a ream of typ­ing paper from Wal­green­s” I said. Noth­ing there the next vis­it, so I brought my own.

The child still wasn’t talk­ing but she did enjoy going with me for walks with her younger sis­ter in the stroller. We saw lots of flow­ers, signs, ducks and oth­er birds and she was curi­ous about every­thing. I didn’t have any prob­lems with her, espe­cial­ly since we had roads to cross and we looked in a cou­ple of canals.

Then came the day I had the 6 month old sis­ter in my house to bail the moth­er out in an ‘emergency’ only to dis­cov­er that the child’s legs were like jel­ly!! No mus­cle tone what­so­ev­er! I was aston­ished and then realised that the infant had sat or slept in her jig­gly baby seat each time I was there. I had to assume that she had spent most of her first 6 months there.

Since she was walk­ing at about a year I dis­missed it from my mind.

So here we are cur­rent­ly with an almost 4 year old com­mu­ni­cat­ing in lim­it­ed fash­ion and attend­ing vir­tu­al­ly full­time pre-school and a tod­dler near­ly 2 and still at home with the moth­er. The 2 year old is mediocre at best with recep­tive lan­guage, not so hot with joint atten­tion and doesn’t make sounds fol­low­ing prompts by the adult and almost expects some­one to pick her up when she wants, even though she’s quite capa­ble, if weak, of climb­ing up on the couch beside you.

More things amiss.

To top it all off I knew that they were mov­ing across town. The moth­er had said “would you come to my new house to care for the girls?” I agreed. We saw the Uhaul next door one week­end and POOF! they were gone!

Not so much as a goodbye.

So I will not be avail­able ever again. I have been used and tak­en advan­tage of for the last time.

This sure­ly was a ‘duck’ – I just didn’t see all that yel­low star­ing me in the face!! 

And you won­der why I think devel­op­men­tal delays are caused by the parents?