June 12, 2015

Let Them Be.

I'm frustrated.

A while back I wrote about my pleas to change the way we talk about sleep "training" in an effort to make families feel confident and secure rather than feel like total crap over their decision to help their children learn to sleep. Well, something else has really been getting to me lately.

Can we please stop comparing our babies to one another? Can we stop worrying about when things like rolling, crawling, walking and talking will happen for our babies? Can we stop worrying all together?? Can we just enjoy them for the extremely short time that they are babies? Please. I'm thisclose to leaving some mom groups I'm in, despite loving the support and friendships I've made, because I can't stand the comparisons, the anxiety, and so on. It's breaking my heart. I've worked really hard to stop doing it myself and I want that for every single mom I come across every day.

To be clear I love the "such and such is crawling or whatever!" posts. Those are not the ones I mean. I mean the ones written to compare or express concern over delayed milestones in young babies. Or the blatant brags about extremely advanced behavior that make other moms feel insecure, whether intentional or not. Maybe I'm just really sensitive to it since my girls are preemies and therefore are technically delayed in terms of their actual age. But I really believe it might actually be hurting our kids.  And it's definitely not helping us tear down those walls I talked about before. 

I have been saving some snippets of conversations I've seen in the last few days. All of these are from twin, mom, cloth diaper and nursing/feeding groups that I absolutely love being a part of. That's why this kills me so much. Some summaries of what I've read:

  • My baby was born in September and he isn't clapping yet. Should I be worried?
  • How much did your baby weigh at a year old?  I'm freaking that our son is under weight. He only weighs 20 lbs. What can I do?
  • My 11 month old will not eat with a spoon, he just flings food around. I see other babies feeding themselves and I'm so worried there's something wrong with his coordination.
  • When did your babies start rolling over? Mine have no interest yet at 5 months old no matter what I do. Should I talk to the pediatrician?
  • What are the first signs of autism? My seven month old is doing some weird head shaking thing and google says autism.
  • How many words can your LO say at 15 months? My girl can say 35! Just wondering what other babies are doing!
  • My son started rolling at 6 weeks, crawling at 4 months and walking at 8 months. Slow down little man! Any other fast learners in here?

Yes, they're all innocent questions and yes, everyone wonders where their kid falls on the spectrum of ability, but would it kill us to at least hold off until they're, I don't know, 18 months old? Two years old even?  Until then, can't we just celebrate the uniqueness that is each of our beautiful, wonderful children?

The internet has made it so easy to find out if our children are "behind" or how they compare against children of the same age. But at the end of the day what difference does it make? What does comparing do except incite anxiety and worry, often unnecessarily?

Also, some people lie. Or they mistake reflexes or randomness for "firsts". Majority of the first words people talk about are babbling - although I guess they could count, but most babies do not say Dada and mean it at 5 months old (and for me, it's not a first word until the child comprehends that that thing over there is Dada and calls it as such). Did you know there's a rolling reflex? Jules rolled over for the first time at 7 weeks old. I was elated. Then she didn't do it again until she was 8 months old no matter how much I tried. Even though it seemed like every baby her age had it mastered by 6 months. Neither one made a consonant sound until 9 months old. And guess what? They're fine. But I wasted precious moments trying to get them to do the things I thought they should be doing. And for what? To be in with the cool kids?

And finally, why in the hell does it matter? Again, I go back to my previous point I made when talking about sleep training. Quick, think of your three closest friends. Which one of them was walking at 12 months old? Not sure? Ok, this one's easier, at what age did your significant other start to talk? How has that directly effected their day to day life? See? How does any of this matter in the long run?

It doesn't. None of this will matter in six months, let alone twenty years. Eventually we all learn to walk and talk and when or how it happened means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

And yet we worry and wonder. We research and we read. We compare our babies to strangers' kids on facebook. We stress when they aren't following some developmental milestone chart we found online and then try to force them to do things before they're ready. We freak out if we think something might be wrong when usually they're just not there yet. I am absolutely guilty of this and I regret that I spent the first six months of my girls lives trying to make them do things they just weren't ready for yet.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be aware. Of course we should. Know the basics of child development but don't beat yourself up if your child isn't advanced or even on time. Nurture them and support them and if at some point you have concerns then you can start the process of getting the appropriate help. Early intervention is a wonderful tool that we have access too if necessary but often it is not needed. What's needed is time and support. You're mom. You will know best. Trust that instinct!

And remember, before we know it we'll be stressing with them over things that actually matter like growing up and dating and them becoming who they really are or whatever. So give them time. Let them be babies.  Celebrate what they are doing. Maybe they're not rolling over at 5 months but they are still nursing like champs or babbling like crazy. Maybe your 15 month old only says 5 words but she is the best peek-a-boo player in the state.

Pay attention to what really matters, what makes your child special and celebrate that. Encourage your child, play with them, but most of all, love them for who they are right at that moment, no matter what they're capable of. All too fast they will be doing it all and this worrying will, hopefully, be a long lost memory. Let's enjoy it as much as we can and just let them be.

What do you think?



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