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Unsung Milestones



I've made no secret that I have mixed feelings about childhood milestones. If this is the first time encountering me or my ideas, I have mixed feelings about childhood milestones.


On one side of the coin, pediatric milestones are a great way to make sure we are meeting our kids' needs and there are no medical or physiological issues. A delay in meeting those milestones can direct physicians' and therapists' attention to specific parts of the body to be sure they are developing properly.


/\Listen to the Childproof episode about milestones /\


  • Delayed speech may point to hearing, jaw malformations, cognitive processing disorders, or muscle development issues.

  • Delayed walking may be an inner ear problem, visual acuity errors, or cognitive processing disorders, and is a telltale sign of a wide variety of chromosomal disorders.

  • Delayed rolling, delayed pincher grab, the way they stand, the way they crawl, how many words they've learned by certain ages: All of this can be diagnostic criteria for a shit load of stuff that our kid has or has to deal with.


Unfortunately for parents, there's a whole other side of that coin. It might be your kid is just taking their own sweet time and doesn't give a damn about "expected timelines" when it comes to hitting those milestones.


Functionally this means parents spend a shit ton of time trying to figure out if their kid who refuses to walk needs an intervention or medical assistance or if they are just really stubborn and see no reason to stop bear crawling just yet.


Sidebar: Nothing creeps me out more than a child bear crawling in my direction. Crab walk, roll, bridge, bum shuffle; all fine. Get an otherwise cute and pleasant baby to bear crawl at me, especially if they can get some speed on them. That's horror movie shit right there. Stop it.


Thus my mixed feelings about milestones. They are useful until they are anxiety-inducing. And that anxiety may or may not be useful. And it may or may not be warranted. And the kid may or may not need assistance to meet that milestone.


Before we continue, I'm gonna put it out there. Just ask your pediatrician or family doctor. If you're concerned, ask. Your doctor would rather tell you a thousand times that nothing is wrong than miss the one time there was something that could be treated or helped with. I know many of my readers are in the US and just calling up your doctor or going in for a "quick check" isn't always an option or even remotely accessible. But if you can, ask your doctor rather than continue to worry about it.


Oh, and don't ask Facebook. They don't know. They'll sound like they do. But someone is gonna tell you to put an onion on it and no. Don't ask Facebook about milestones unless you also enjoy thwacking hornet nests with sticks for fun. It's just not worth it.


Collectively we all focus so hard on these pediatric milestones and subconsciously are using those milestones to judge ourselves and our parenting.


Kathy's kid was walking by 7 hours old.

What am I doing wrong?


My kid has a speech delay and needs speech therapy.

Oh, I didn't talk to them enough. I messed it up.


We end up comparing our kids not just to the milestones (which are nothing more than averages, not exact moments by which your kid should have met them) but to other kids. Never mind that each kid is different.


Case and point. I have twins. Two children born of the same parents, the same pregnancy, delivered two minutes apart and for their entire lives have had equal access to care, support, guidance, and resources. One was an early walker. The other penguin slid everywhere for months longer than their sibling. One needs speech therapy. The other one speaks just fine. One is an adventurous eater. One is a five-food feeder and all of those foods are dreadfully beige.


I didn't do anything different. They are just different kids with different minds, bodies, and motivations. That should be translating to you as you didn't necessarily do anything wrong if your kid is slow to walk or needs help learning to talk or requires occupational therapy cuz that pincher grasp just didn't want to pinch.


I mean, that probably won't make you feel any better because Mom Guilt and Mom shame are relentless bastards who won't let you internalize that encouragement but all the same. You are doing a good job. You're getting your kid the resources they need. It is not a reflection on your relationship with your child nor the work you're putting into parenting that they need resources or guidance you cannot provide.


I do have a resolution. We need healthier milestones for parental use only. The medical and therapeutic folks can keep their walking/talking/grasping/playing milestones. They need those. Here's my proposed list of milestones that matter.


  • They stopped doing that raptor leg thing and pulling their own foot out of their onesie leg.

  • They stopped peeing immediately after you changed their diaper.

  • They can hold their own bottle.

  • They will pick things up and hand them to you.

  • They actually tell you (or at least point to) where they put the remote/keys/mommy's phone when you ask.

  • More food ends up in them than on them during a meal.

  • They covered their mouth when they coughed/sneezed.

  • They can open their own applesauce pouch.

  • They can refill their own water.

  • They can actually tell you what hurts and why they are crying.

  • They can peel their own clementine.

  • They can put on their own socks.

  • They can open their own fruit snacks/goldfish/snack package.

  • They can wipe their own butts.

  • They can rinse all the soap out of their own hair without your help.

  • They walked right by the dog bowl/cat bowl/litter box/fish tank and didn't even pause to consider getting into it.

  • They can run into the gas station and grab a snack with cash you handed them while you wait in the car or fill the gas tank at the pump.

  • They can operate the gas pump and you can sit in your nice, cozy car while they fill 'er up.

  • They can make their own meal.

  • They can make a meal for you.

  • They can drive themselves to activities and practices and you no longer have to spend hours of your life waiting in some parking lot on your kid.



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