Babies are like little race cars when it comes to their developmental milestones. They all follow the same track, but they don’t get to the finish line at the same time. Some babies seem to be in a hurry and walk early while others seem to spend a little more time with the pit crew and catch up with the others later. Keep in mind that the standardized guideline of developmental milestones is just a ‘serving suggestion’ and that your baby is an individual. There is no trophy for finishing first and no champagne cork-popping to celebrate. With this in mind, you can give yourself permission to begin following the development of your little race car without the ‘mommy angst’ of finishing in first place. With your loving encouragement you’ll introduce ways to help your baby move along without spending precious, valuable time focusing on the rush to those waving, checkered flags.
As a grandmother, I can see more clearly the benefit of not worrying over developmental goals. That ‘not worrying’ thing is good practice for other challenges child rearing will bring you, too. Since my daughter was a 27-week preemie, there was a lot to be concerned about and I, more often than I’m happy about, turned that into worry. Hear me say this in my most kind, grandmotherly voice: Worry is a time and attention sucker, it’s not worth it. It’s non-productive. Give yourself a pass when you feel overwhelmed with concern and worry and sing the Frozen song, “Let It Go”. Even in the smallest amounts, worry distracts us from focusing on the present. Some of my best memories of my daughter’s early years are the times that I chose to laugh instead of worry or be embarrassed. (Note: This will come in handy in the teenage years, too. Just believe me.)
I’ll let you in on one memorable incident: I was taking a shower or doing dishes (or I blinked, I don’t even know!) and two year old Morgan found my calligraphy pens. That’s indelible ink, y’all. NON-removable except by time and baths. She loved to watch me use them so it made sense that she thought drawing was an acceptable activity. Drawing on the hallway wall and on herself, to be specific. All over herself. Head and shoulders, knees and toes. No, really. Tummy, face and hands, too. I was, at first, horrified because it was extensive. She was her own Zentangle! What would people think of me for absent-mindedly leaving those pens within her reach and ‘allowing’ her to have access to them? The evidence was going to be around for weeks, anyway, so in defiance of anyone who might comment, we daringly went to McDonald’s for lunch and the playscape. (I’m still rebellious like that.)
Yes, we got some negative, judgmental comments and stares. Unbelievably, they were mostly from older women. (Let’s make a pact to support each other and stick together, ladies!) Other mommies gave me the “oh, no, you’ll be judged but not by me” nod. Mostly, we got comments about the artwork. Many asked what happened and upon my proud explanation of how my smart girl was copying her mommy (sans paper) the reactions reflected my excitement. My girl smiled so confidently at being called an artist because she heard me speak proudly of her. Can you spot the moral of that story? Completely by accident and my out- there-dare, I discovered that my own attitude had a huge impact on everybody but most importantly, my little Picasso!
So, when your baby starts rolling like a rolling pin instead of crawling, celebrate the ingenuity and know that some serious balancing skills are being sharpened! When your baby takes his time learning to sit up, let me encourage you to choose to enjoy the extra time you are helping him learn and the opportunity to be his biggest fan. You ARE his first teacher, after all and face time is always welcomed. A baby’s face time with you is the best ‘toy’ you can give her. You want a people person with near-expert socialization skills? Spend time talking and singing face to face with her. If you have other children, encourage them to do the same. Bonding and happy memory making are key in personality development and it improves the disposition of all involved!
Your little race car’s run for the finish line is his own personal ride around that wide race track. Delight in the process and seal in mental pictures. Today will be the only day your baby will be who he is this minute. As you choose more often to keep a positive outlook and maintain an atmosphere of encouragement (imagine fans in the stands waving wildly with excitement!), with less worry about reaching the finish line alongside his fellow drivers, you will more easily relish watching your baby bloom through every stage of the race.
About Juli, a loving grandmother…