When River was born, I had What to Expect the First Year in a handy place. Every so often I’d take a look and see where he stood regarding the milestones expected for his age. On the rare occasions he was ahead, I cheered. When he was behind, I kept an eye on that skill appearing at some point.
I soon figured out that it doesn’t really matter when this stuff happens. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was really proud the day I went to mom and baby yoga and was able to show off that he could roll over. As in, who cares?
I also figured that a parent is probably going to think that their own child’s timeline is the right one for that kid. When the little girl River hung out with as a baby began to walk at nine months, I didn’t think she was a marvel, but instead thought her parents were going to have a rougher time taking her of her. When other little girls spoke earlier, more eloquently, I figured girls develop faster and River’s bilingualism would naturally slow him down. When other boys climbed and jumped and River didn’t, I was grateful that River never hurts himself and that we don’t have to keep a close eye on him. He was on the slow end of several developmental markers but I thought that was fine, because it was right for him.
So this time, I haven’t paid any attention. I don’t even know where my What to Expect book is.
The first time timelines were even brought to my attention was at a recent gathering. A mom of a six-month old was telling me that she can’t leave her baby alone with her older brothers because they will hurt her. So far River has not shown any negative feelings towards Willow. I leave them alone without concern.
“But you should watch out,” she said. “Something happens at around five months, when the baby starts to laugh and smile and get a lot of attention from people. Then they start to feel jealous and can take it out on her.”
“She does laugh and smile,” I said. “But so far that hasn’t changed anything.”
“No, it’s different in a few months,” she said. “You’ll see.”
A while later, Willow woke up from her nap in another room and I brought her out into the gathering. This woman saw Willow smile and laugh and get attention from people. She seemed shocked it was happening at three months.
“That’s really early!” she said. “That means that she’s going to be very verbal.”
Really? I had no idea. And honestly, didn’t really care. I’m glad she laughs and vocalizes because it’s endearing. She’s sleeping less at night than River, she’s vocalizing earlier, she’s moving earlier. But she’s no better or worse than he is. They are just individuals, on their own correct timelines.