The Milestone Trap

As a first time mum, I try as much as possible to avoid falling into what I call The Milestone Trap.

At times it can seem like all around me there are babies who are rolling, crawling, walking, joining mensa… you know, reaching all those big milestones, while my own baby is nowhere near it.  As a first timer, it can make you start to question… “Is something wrong with my baby?” “Why isn’t my bubba doing that yet?”

When I find myself falling into that trap of comparison, I have to remind myself that there is a huge range of “normal” when it comes to children, especially babies.  Even physiotherapists have been known to say that “there is no abnormal under 1”.  I’ve heard of babies walking at 7 months, and I’ve heard of babies that didn’t crawl until they were 11 months and then were off and walking two weeks later.

The most important point to remember is that neither way is better.  Doing it earlier doesn’t mean the baby is cleverer or that the parent is somehow doing a better job.  Doing it later doesn’t mean the baby is slow or dumb or that it’s due to slack parenting.  All babies develop on their own schedule when it is right for them.

Some parents find themselves wanting to rush their baby along – to “teach” it how to crawl, to stand, to walk.  I think, if you do this, you run two great risks.  Firstly you risk pushing the baby out of alignment with its own natural line of development and pushing it into skills its not ready for.  And secondly, by always looking ahead and wanting your baby to be doing the next thing, the next thing, the next thing… you risk not being able to stop and appreciate your baby just exactly as they are right now.

So your baby doesn’t crawl yet?  Unless they’re over one or show other signs of developmental delay… who cares?  There are lots of advantages to having a baby that can’t get into the kitchen drawers!  Just enjoy it.  Enjoy who your baby is.  Enjoy watching your baby develop on its own timeframe.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Because the time will come when you look back on this age with a kind of aching nostalgia and wish you could go back and hold that sweet still infant on your lap again and smell their head… without being punched in the face.

This is a video I absolute love, of a baby called Liv as she develops the skills of rolling over and crawling in the first year of life.  What I absolutely love about this video is how it shows all the tiny little steps that lead up to the bigger milestone – placing her feet together, kicking the floor… little things that may go unnoticed but are actually crucial stepping stones in the learning process that eventually end up in the big action you’ve been waiting for.

Another thing I love about it is the look of absolute pride on her face when she learns to roll over.  Another risk of trying to teach a baby something it’s not ready for is that you deprive it of that proud feeling of acheivement babies get when they figure something out all by themselves.

At the moment, Scarlett has just learned to pull herself up to standing while holding onto the couch.  Every time she does it, she gets the biggest grin and laughs.  It’s the cutest thing ever!  She’s so proud of herself and so amazed at what she just made her body do.

And so I try not to get caught up in the big milestones.  They aren’t the only milestones anyway.  I remember the day she smiled for the first time, without it being followed by a burp or a poo…

Bubba’s first smile at 10 days old 🙂

I remember the day she lay and examined each individual finger one by one, as if just discovering that they were separate from each other…

Hrmmm, I found these little sausages on my hands…

I remember the first time she laughed at something because she found it funny, not because I was trying to make her laugh (I sat her up in the bath for the first time instead of lying her down – she slapped the water and thought it was the most hilarious thing ever!)…

Baths are fun!

I remember so many little funny gorgeous things… things that aren’t in most baby books or developmental emails, things only a mumma would notice.  And somehow that makes them all the more special to me, those little milestones, those tiny moments frozen in time.  And they’re all part of the process, all part of her learning about herself and her world, just as much as the big, well known milestones like crawling and walking.

Whenever I catch myself comparing her to other babies, I just use it as a trigger thought to remind me to appreciate her for exactly who she is, as she is.  She is my Scarlett, she is doing things her way (as is every baby), and why would I wish her any different?  She is perfect just as she is.

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