And by expected, I mean planned. Because that’s what we do when we are looking forward to the arrival of our little ones. We plan… and hope.. and dream. But just as we place lofty expectations upon ourselves (and our partners) for the type of parents we intend to be, (see post: “Eating Words… and Cheetos”) I think we also, perhaps subconsciously, set the bar for our babies too.
If we read to him enough, will he talk early? If we use baby sign also, will he show even more verbal competency early? If we nurture his confidence enough, will he give up the bottle early? If we try all of the pediatrician recommended tips, could we have him potty trained early? If we use enough repeated practice, will he be able to identify colors and shapes (numbers, letters, etc.) early?
The problem with this way of thinking is the word early. You see, we read all of these books and articles and websites (think Baby Manual for Dummies… Idiots Guide to Parenthood) that bestow upon us the magical calendar of milestones to watch for and record to make sure our baby is normal. However, “normal” is a setting on the dishwasher and a stupid word to apply to babies and parenting. The point is, we forget to bear in mind that the baby hasn’t read the books! Translation–> He doesn’t know when to cut his first tooth because he didn’t read that chapter. He is not sleeping through the night at 10-12 weeks as expected, because he slacked on that chapter too. Lazy baby. As it turns out, babies know no timeline. They reinvent their “schedule” daily, making it less of a schedule, and more of a “here’s how we spent (read: survived) our time today and count on it being different tomorrow.” And furthermore, they couldn’t care less about your milestone marker chart, cute though it may be. Alas, they create their own “normal.”
So my advice? (Not that I’m qualified to offer it…) As long as your baby is healthy and loved, RELAX. He’ll walk when he’s ready. He’ll give up that sippy cup in due time. Put away your calendar and get out your camera… capture moments. Enjoy the milestones and “firsts” and celebrate them, but let your baby be a baby. Years from now, it is not going to matter that he smiled for the first time on his 17th day at 11:37 am… just that he smiled. And let’s remember that in no thesaurus is early synonymous with superior. They grow up too fast as it is.
DISCLAIMER: I am, by no means, saying not to read all those books out there; that goes against my nature. I read them, and I’d read them again. In fact, I am always reading parenting books and articles and media. So read on, mamas! I am merely suggesting that we maybe ought not place so much emphasis on milestone dates that tell us how “normal” our children are… or are not. Every baby has their own pace and their own “normal.”
I think back to this post as a reminder of my “normal” that day… not what I had planned.
Also, I think this whole “What to Expect” mojo is stemming from the fact that three of the four girls I shared pregnancy with are all pregnant again. (Yes there were five of us friends preggo at the same time… apparently there was nothing good on TV that season.) The fever is setting in. Better get Netflix.