Milestone Mania

Since having children of my own, I’ve started to see certain things regarding kids differently, and I wanted to take a little time to reflect on one of the biggest things I’ve noticed, that being milestones. As someone without kids I knew that there were big milestones that babies eventually reached, crawling, sitting, walking, talking ect. I didn’t really think to much of these milestones, I figured each child hit them at his or her own pace. Then I had kids and it was like, oh my god, there’s a milestone for everything. For example, I just got an e-mail notification from babycenter that at week 8 my baby should be able to smile and coo now, so I can begin to have back and forth conversations with them. It went on to describe how to do this and to tell me that this is a crucial way for me to begin to develop their language skills. So every time my fiance is holding our little girl and is quiet and just studying her face I panic and tell him, you have to talk to her and coo back at her so that she develops on track. This has happened so frequently that finally he said to me ‘Look, I’m not going to constantly talk to her because sometimes I just want to enjoy her face and watch her smile, I talk to her a lot, but sometimes we can just relax. She’s going to learn to talk whether I constantly yammer on or not, she is a smart baby’. After a few times of this back and forth it hit me that he’s right. Of course we should communicate and interact with her, but we should do it because we want to and because we enjoy her, not because we are worried about meeting development guidelines. This constant emphasis on timelines and milestones that has become so prevalent in American culture has created an atmosphere where instead of engaging and playing with my children for the sake of love and enjoyment I am doing it out of worry that I’m going to mess up as a mom if I don’t. It’s this backwards way of thinking where instead of engaging in motherhood with confidence some people are now further losing confidence by the constant ability to compare and track their childs ability. This Milestone frenzy has created also created a hypocritical statement by having doctors and websites saying that each child is unique and develops at their own pace, but really your child should be doing this, this and this and here’s what you need to be doing to help them. I remember watching the film Babies in my developmental psychology class and seeing that one of the babies had very little interaction with their parents. In fact, they were left alone most of the day. At the end of the film the teacher asked us what we noticed about the differences within the childrens development. I said that they child who had been left alone seemed to develop at a slower rate than that of the other ones. She responded by asking me why I said that. After a few minutes of thinking about it, I realized that this statement had been untrue, in fact the child had developed at an almost identical rate to the others. I just assumed that because the child had not been bombarded with toys, tummy time, blocks, flashcards, or any of the other hundreds of interactive activities he had developed more slowly. Now of course I do not think for a second that you should leave your child alone or not interact with them, but I do think that maybe the moms out there who like me, are struggling with the hyperfocus on milestones should relax and allow themselves to just let go of the timelines and instead truly focus on your child as an individual. I want to try to enjoy the time I spend with my baby, I want to watch her play with fishy’s above her heads, see the wonder on her face and just allow her to explore without feeling the need to narrate everything she’s doing. I want our time together to be not just qualitative but quantitative, and for that to happen I need to relax and become more confident in my abilities as a mother as well as her abilities as a human being. I believe that given the opportunity and encouragement each and every child has the truly remarkable ability to grow and develop into incredible and unique people. So maybe it’s time to let go of some of the milestones. In order to truly celebrate the fact that no two human beings are alike, I think it’s necessary to stop trying to lump them all together. So any mom’s out there who have kids that are a little slow according to a milestone marker, or a little fast, pat yourselves on the back, because no matter what you have brought an amazing little being into this world and now is when the real fun begins as you get to watch him/her explore and learn at their own unique pace and in their own unique way.


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