First off, let me start by saying, milestones are relative. When you become a parent it takes a kid or two of experience under your belt before you really understand that obsessing over stages of development is bad for your health and adds more stress.
Sure we know that logically every child will not walk at the same time, at the same age, and people (including paediatricians) say these things are just meant as markers rather than actual truths- but that does not stop us as parents from checking out those "milestone charts." Its a natural human response to want to see what is considered "average" by whoever makes these charts. With the milestone hype, it is sometimes easy to feel like where our child places in terms of milestones is a direct measure of our skills as parents. So, as our friends talk about advances their kids are making -or in some cases, that neighbour who is always talking about how their kid is so much more advanced than everyone else's (yeah you know the one - they talk about how their 6 month old counts to 12 already, and will surely be able to recite the periodic table of elements by 9 months)- we sit and tell ourselves that every child is different, while secretly at some point, we will go home and sneak a glance at the chart.
Like it or not, as human beings we are constantly looking for ways to measure our place in the world in order to gain a sense of who we are as individuals. These types of measurements act as a gauge in identity formation, allowing people to position themselves in terms of "averages" and in many cases encourages the desire to fit into specific binaries (ex. gender). The problem with this type of self assessment is that it inevitably leads to othering because not everyone fits the "average."
When parents start linking milestones with parenting skills they enter into an emotionally draining game of self esteem roulette. This type of association can be immensely draining when coupled with the stress that already comes with the parenthood welcome package. Even more is the fact that not every child will walk, or crawl, or in some cases due to medical reasons, have the chance to do either. Where does that leave those children?
If these types of measurements "not meant to be worry mills" are everywhere a new parent looks, and things begin to be measured in terms of percentiles (ex. P ranks in the 50th percentile for weight, he weighs the same as 50 percent of kids his age), what happens if our child does not "measure up?"
I found that with J I was always worrying. Parenthood was new to me. I was scared and despite the best efforts of the authors in the baby book market, kids just don't come with manuals. It really wasn't until E came along that I was able to really observe and appreciate that each child is different and unique in their own way. With P I have become even more confident -or perhaps comfortable - in my own abilities as a parent, that I don't feel the need to obsess over milestones.
According to one milestone chart P should have been standing, crawling and cruising furniture at around 9 months. Well he wasn't. In fact he never crawled. He's a scooter. Despite the well -however misplaced- intentions of family members trying to coax him to "crawl the right way", he prefers to get around on his butt because this is what he feels is the most efficient for him. For him, scooting is the right way.
P is now 14 months old. Two days ago while checking my emails I noticed the familiar feeling of P gnawing on my leg. This is a pretty common occurrence and not unusual for him to do at some point during the day. But this gnawing was different. I realized that I was not sitting on the floor with him this time, but sitting on a chair, and he was still able to gnaw at the height of the chair. As I looked down I saw he was standing, on his own, gnawing on my leg and he couldn't be more proud of himself. Since then he has started scaling the furniture and trying to climb various things in the house.
Is he walking yet? No. Am I worried? No. We don't want to rush P. Instead, provide him with a supporting environment that allows him to feel comfortable and gain confidence learning how to do these things at a pace that is right for him. On his own time. Because he is unique-not average.
Rather than obsessing and comparing P's progress to the "average" and then worrying because 3 other children his age are already walking, I choose to use my own scale of measurement, which involves asking myself a series of simple questions.
Is he happy? Check. Is he healthy? Check. Are his needs taken care of? Check. Is he loved? More than he will ever know.