With September upon us and the school year around the corner, this is when many parents prepare their children for another year of learning, purchasing school supplies and new clothes, enrolling them in extracurricular activities, hoping that their children measure up to the grade with their peers in the upcoming school year.
Will they do well in school? Are they in enough extracurricular activities? Will they be good in sports like the rest of the class? Being a first time father of a toddler, I’ve still got a couple of years before that dreaded first day of school, but I’m noticing that measuring your child’s progress against their peers starts early.
Like many parents, we have a few baby books that we like to keep record of my son, Kyrie’s development, special memories and events. These baby books contain lists of various developmental milestones that “should” happen in his first year: his first time rolling over or crawling, his first wave, his first steps…keeping up with baby’s milestones is endless. When your child misses one of those milestones, you feel obligated as a parent to ensure they master it because you have to fill that baby book, right? I guess it’s human instinct but as a new parent, you want to make sure your children are keeping pace with their peers. You may spend an hour trying to get your baby to laugh for the first time (as well as get it on camera) to mark that item off the list.
We have a baby book called “Baby’s First Year” and once his birthday hit, there was one blank entry: First Time Blowing a Kiss. He never completed it. Believe me, we tried plenty of times to teach him to put the palm of his hand to his mouth and blow a kiss, but it never happened in those first 365 days. He just wasn’t ready to learn it. I thought, does this mean I’m a bad parent? I know it has nothing to do with this, but as a first time dad, there’s always that worry in the back of my mind.
Facebook can be an especially menacing for the baby comparisons. How many times has my wife looked at something that a friend posted on Facebook about their child reaching a milestone, and wondered aloud whether our son was developing at the same pace. As rookie parents, we’re constantly looking for that reassurance of knowing our child is developing at a similar rate as other toddlers.
As he continues to grow and begins swimming lessons or music classes, there’s no doubt I will be comparing his progress to his peers in the back of my mind but I’ll always have the comfort of knowing that children are different and progress at different rates. My son will get it eventually and I’ll be able to fill out that blank spot in his baby book. But really at the end of the day, we just want our child to be happy and know that his parents love him no matter what, and no matter how he compares to others. And we don’t want to be those parents who enrolls our child in every single activity possible, and constantly wanting more and more so he can be on top.
I can tell you one thing, my son just turned 14-months and he recently learned how to blow a kiss. He does it every morning when I go to work and which makes me happy, not just because I got to fill in that slot in the baby book, but because I know my son can show me his love as I drive off to work. He also recently learned how to pick his nose, too. It’s not one of those milestones you would find in a baby book but it’s a milestone, nonetheless.