Anxious Parents, Unite!
While today's playgroups are often the biggest breeding grounds for milestone madness, doctors say they can also be the best antidote to it. It all depends on parents' approach. When you're surrounded by people whose babies are about as old as yours, look at it as an opportunity to gain a better sense of the wide variety of normal temperaments and abilities.
Marcus and her daughter, Samantha, belong to a playgroup of nine babies, all born within three months of one another, at the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. The diversity in Samantha's peer group was particularly striking when the babies were between 8 and 11 months old, Marcus says, with the born athletes already standing or cruising while the less ambitious sat and watched. Although Samantha lagged in mobility, she proved to be the attention-span champion of the group. At one meeting, the facilitator asked parents to take turns reading from a book during circle time, and Samantha's eyes followed each reader in turn. "I thought, 'Oh, she's way ahead,'" Marcus laughs.
Keeping a sense of humor may be the best way to stay sane in the savage world of early childhood development. One busybody mom asked Lowe for a tally of Emma's vocabulary at 20 months. All she could think of in response was, "Emma can moo like a cow." "What can you say?" Lowe recalls with a smile. "As a parent, you obviously want to know if something is wrong with your child, but competition is absurd and completely unnecessary and just adds stress to your life." When she's with company, Lowe deliberately downplays Emma's achievements in order to avoid hurting anyone's feelings.
It's only human to rejoice in our children's triumphs, no matter how small they may be, according to Dr. Brodlie. He encourages moms and dads to celebrate these moments privately, but agrees with Lowe's approach of showing grace and humility in front of other parents.
For her part, Thomas encourages new parents who attend her weekly playgroup to take the long view. Her first child, Colter, missed the 8-month milestone for crawling, then ended up walking at 11 months. Her younger child, Tayler, a dynamo in motor skills, consistently misses every deadline in the books for feeding. "My mantra has been, 'She's not going to go to college eating out of a jar,'" Thomas says. "I know we're going to get there eventually. It just takes time. And I try to help other parents see that too."