We all want to do this job of parenting so well. And I think we look outside ourselves and our families to judge whether or not we’re “succeeding”…. we look at benchmarks. Even that word, succeeding cares such an emotional weight when applied to parenting. Benchmarks are after all external indicators of development. And I wonder sometimes if the focus of meeting the benchmarks pushes our kids too far, to their and our emotional detriment. I saw a baby t-shirt on the internet, that proudly proclaimed, “I’ll walk when I’m good and ready!”. That made me smile. Markus could use that one. At almost 15 months, he’s still not walking. He’s close so I’m too concerned, but I did feel that little yucky feeling of “Oh is he behind?” when all of the other babies his age ( and some younger ) were walking yesterday at the birthday party we attended. And there are times to be genuinely concerned. A friend of mine’s little guy needed some physiotherapy because he bum scooted for so long that his inner leg muscles were almost too flexible and he had trouble standing. Today he’s a happy 5 year old today who runs with no problems. And I know that the vast majority of bum scooters transition into walking with no extra assistance. But to me, stories like that illustrate the need for benchmarks. When development is veering off the path of normal, it’s good to have some indicators to alert us to that fact and so that we can get our children the help that they need to thrive.
However benchmarks work better when understood as window of time rather than an actually date. Babies roll between 4 to 7 months old. Kids learn to read between 4 and 7 years old. It’s a window! Just like your due date was.
Every child develops so uniquely. Benchmarks work better when they are not confused with value measurements. A benchmark can let you know when your child might need some extra help with learning her letters. But it does not in any way reflect the value of your child. A mental challenged child is not worth more than a mental “gifted” one or vice versa. But it’s easy to get caught up in the value connotations of benchmarks.
So here’s to sitting back and enjoying the ride and being content to marvel at the development of your little one without making yourself crazy.
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