Monday, June 20, 2011

Chucking the Checklist

Max is at an intermediate stage of his development, stuck between being a baby and a toddler, and therefore the people we meet out and about are no longer satisfied just by learning Max’s age. They also want to know what developmental milestones he’s reached. So after they ask how old he is, the next question (usually one of several) is “Is he walking yet?” And I know I’m not alone in getting this question. My friend who has a kid three days older than Max complains that her doorman asks every other day if her kid is walking yet. My advice to her is: threaten to withhold his holiday tip if he asks again! In all seriousness, the questioners are usually well-intentioned, and I don’t think they mean to be annoying to the parent who has to respond to the same inquiries time and again . . . but, let’s face it, the questions do get tiresome.

So I try to get over the topic as soon as possible, getting all the info out to them in one fell swoop -- something like: “Nope. My kid is not walking yet, not saying any words yet, or recognizing any parts of his body yet; but . . . he is truly advanced in the teeth department!” My response is intended to be informative, but also, by bringing up Max’s dental accomplishments, hopefully hints at how silly I think the whole comparison game is for kids whose ages are still measured in months. Basically I’m saying to these people in a joking way: Unless your kid, grandkid, or whoever else you’re comparing my Maxxie to, has or had four front and bottom teeth, plus two molars, already in at 13 months old, you’re no one to talk comparisons with my child!

While I like to think of myself as pretty mellow when it comes to assessing whether Max’s development is keeping up with that of his friends’, I do have my slip-ups when my competitive streak slips out. One of Max’s playmates, who is six weeks older than Max and seems advanced in all of the main developmental yardsticks, for several months now has been able to point to his nose and ears when prompted. So, shortly before Max’s birthday, I couldn’t help myself but to test him for this skill . . . with no success. At Max’s 12 month visit with his pediatrician, I casually mentioned to him that Max is not able to recognize his body parts. The pediatrician responded by looking straight at Max and asking: “Max, you are not a trained seal, are you?” Point made, and naturally that humbled me and reminded me that my instincts about how silly all these developmental comparisons can be was spot on in the first place.

A couple of weeks later, my same friend with the inquisitive doorman mentioned that she visited the American Academy of Pediatrics website to look up developmental milestones for one year olds. As is human nature, she immediately focused only on the ones that her kid wasn’t doing yet:

• Says “dada” and “mama”

• Uses exclamations, such as “oh-oh!”

• Tries to imitate words

Of course Max wasn’t doing any of these things either. And, unfortunately, the number of teeth that a child has did not make the Academy’s list! To try to reassure my friend, I told her that Max was in the same boat as her kid. I was all nonchalant, like: “Why are you looking these things up? You are only setting yourself up for disappointment. These developmental steps will happen when they happen.” I truly believe that to be the right attitude to take -- but of course in my pep talk to her I omitted the part about my own recent neuroses in this area that I had displayed in my nervous questioning of Max’s pediatrician about his nose-pointing deficiencies.

All this said, I’m not trying to downplay the enjoyment parents do and should feel when kids reach developmental milestones. I am enjoying watching each of Max’s friends develop on their own time. It’s exciting to see the ones that have begun to take their first steps. It’s like they are drunken soldiers! Of course, I enjoy seeing Max develop the most, and he is truly at a great age for it. At the moment, Max is standing up on his own for up to 15 to 20 seconds (at the longest) before he topples over or sits himself down. It’s really cute to watch, and particularly because he is so proud of himself when he does it!

Max standing (daddy method)

And, as an example that most babies eventually do develop the skills set forth for them on all the checklists out there -- sort of -- in just the past week, when I ask Max where his nose is . . . he points to mine. It is so adorable, and at least he is pointing to someone’s nose when prompted! Needless to say, I’ll take it. Max is pretty perfect in my book and it’s very easy for me to be proud of whatever he accomplishes, whenever it happens and whether or not it is on somebody else’s checklist.

Max standing (chair method)

1 comment:

  1. You're a wise Daddy and at only 13 months. Happy Father's Day to you and Stewart--a few days late but sometimes I'm slow.