Baby milestones. The very phrase has a sense of grand achievement associated with it. The kind that makes your chest swell with pride and your eyes fill with tears of joy!
Every baby milestone — from crawling to speaking their first word — is a moment no parent on this planet ever wants to miss. Even before your baby is born, you start daydreaming of how fast they’ll grow up, achieving one milestone after the next.
I was the same, you know. So eager to experience baby steps, baby talk, I had an app downloaded to track when the next milestone would happen. It was crazy!
But one fine day, the realization suddenly hit — rushing milestones is not fair to or healthy for my baby.
I had gone for my first physical therapy session to get my diastasis recti fixed. It’s when your ab muscles partially or fully separate due to the stretching of your uterus during pregnancy, leading to that ‘always pregnant’ look (1). It’s quite common post pregnancy.
Anyway, back to what we were discussing, when I was at the clinic, my therapist told me to get into a crawling position and stretch one arm forward while pushing the opposite leg backward. Before I could even get into the position, I lost balance and fell over.
She asked me to try again, this time taking it slow and making small movements. But I tripped again.
Based on my miserable performance, she concluded that I likely had a neurological disorder. But something didn’t add up. All my life, I had been super active. I was a great hiker and biker, never felt uncoordinated ever, and neither did I really ever get dizzy. So I really couldn’t figure out why both the sides of my body couldn’t work together.
As she and I tried to figure out what could be the reason behind my lack of coordination, she asked me about my son. Specifically, she wanted to know if he was crawling.
Like a proud mama I told her that he had just started crawling and that if he was like me, he’ll fast forward to walking; skipping crawling altogether!
That struck her. She was shocked that I never crawled and told me that’s the reason why I couldn’t do the simple exercise she asked me to! And that’s when I realized that it made sense. While I was good at a few things, I was pretty bad at a few others too.
I sucked at riding motorbikes. Could never dance all that well. And I was pretty bad at basketball though I did well at sports overall. Each of the things I was bad at required a good connection between the left and sides of the body and since I didn’t crawl, I didn’t develop that coordination.
Needless to say, I started reading up on it a lot. And the more I read, the more I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Either due to natural reasons or due to the parents’ wishes to get to milestones faster, children were the ones at a loss as they didn’t get the chance to build up basic skills.
For example, children who don’t crawl in their early years can grow up to be clumsy (2). But it’s not just about physical skills. Even emotional phases, such as stubbornness or tantrums, play a part. According to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association, kids who were more stubborn had higher chances of being successful when they grew up (3).
If you stop your child from doing things that lead to their overall development — by either punishing them or trying to appease to their good side — you might hinder their emotional development. So next time when you find yourself in a sticky spot with your kid, use it as an opportunity to instill confidence and good behavior in your child.
When I gained knowledge on this issue, I was really relieved. Being a stickler for deadlines, I used to constantly worry about kids not meeting their milestones at the right time. That way, it got really difficult to keep track of every milestone he achieved, until I realized I didn’t have to keep tabs.
I got rid of the milestone tracking apps on my phone and decided to let my child grow at his own pace. This made his milestones such an amazing experience for me! His first steps came as a wonderful surprise, instead of something that happened late. Same feeling when he uttered his first words. If I needed to know if things were on track, I just asked my pediatrician, who assured me they were.
A final word of advice? You don’t have to cave into the pressure of keeping up with other kids. Every child is different anyway and no two children grow at the same pace. So relax and just watch your child grow and learn every day.