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Baby’s First Steps: What’s the Rush?

babys-first-steps-585As a parent, you live and breathe your child’s milestones. Pamphlets surround the pediatrician’s office that help parents understand their developing child. During my undergrad years when I was getting my bachelors of science in speech pathology and audiology, I memorized these milestones. I knew what age a child should sit up and when their eyes would focus on yours. I used to do evaluations that were focused on milestones as they related to speech and motor skills. I lived and breathed this information, in the classroom and during clinical hours. As a student, I viewed this information as necessary — this is what needs to happen right now. If it wasn’t happening, I needed to put together an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

As a parent though, this information scares me. When my child doesn’t do what he is supposed to at the age recommended, I get nervous and call my mom. At my son’s 9-month wellness check, I expressed concern that he wasn’t crawling. My concern came from the concern of those around me. Being that I’m a first-time mama, I turned to Google. BIG MISTAKE! I started reading horrible things about delayed physical movements in babies. My pediatrician referred us to a physical therapist, and so it began.

When this whole experience started, I cried. A lot. I cried at the words “gross motor delay.” I cried at Evan’s frustration with not being where he wanted to be when he wanted to be there, and I cried that we needed early intervention. Looking back, I realize I was overwhelmed — scared of the unknown and felt completely behind the kids who are younger than Evan is. One of my good friends is a physical therapist, aka my phone a friend on speed dial! She helped me understand our therapist’s evaluation and really helped me realize it’s not as scary as it sounds.

It all made me wonder: do we put too much pressure on our kids to perform? Evan is fine. Totally fine. He is so fine that he was content with his way of getting from one place to the other … rolling. After two evaluations, my over analysis and a meeting with the head coordinator, we had a plan. Evan had a MILD gross motor delay, which is completely related to his long, lean body.

When Evan sat up, we clapped. When he got on all fours, we clapped. When he crawled, we clapped (and I freaked!). When he stood up and scooted along couches and tables, we clapped. When he stood up unassisted, we clapped and I screamed. When he took his first steps, we clapped, I cried and Evan laughed. My mom joked with us that when Evan grows up and no one claps for him when he moves he’s going to be very disappointed. We may have over done it on positive reinforcement, but everything he does feels so new and fresh, each time.

I stopped treating milestones as musts, and that’s when Evan started improving. He is a strong walker. It took us 16 months to get here, but who’s counting? My mister knew exactly what he was capable of; he just wanted to do it on his own time. I try to remember now that all these milestones that surround us are really just a suggestion when it comes to a timeline, not a hard and fast rule.

There is pressure surrounding us everywhere with our kiddos. How do you handle it? Do you get caught up in the developmental milestone comparison trap? —Jennifer

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