Everyday Einstein talks with Nicholas Day, author of Baby Meets World, about the surprising truth behind developmental milestones in babies. (Hint: They don’t matter as much as you think!)
A few years ago, my wife and I were talking with some other parents and one of them asked if our youngest son had started to walk yet. Some of the parents were amazed and a little concerned that a boy of his age hadn’t started walking yet. After all, babies are supposed to start walking exactly 14.5 months after they’ve left the womb, right? So if you have a 15-month-old who hasn’t started walking yet, that means your child must be abnormal, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t you schedule some appointments with your pediatrician, psychologist, and possibly an attorney?
As parents, we often have concerns when our children’s development doesn’t follow the “typical” pattern, as dictated by countless books, magazine articles, and web sites. When writer Nicholas Day became a first-time parent, he fell into the same trap of reading and believing “expert” opinions on what his son should and should not be doing at a given age. Then he started doing his on research on developmental milestones. He discovered that there was a lot more to developmental milestones than he had been led to believe.
That’s why he decided to write a book called Baby Meets World, to set the record straight and put a lot of worried parents at ease. Let’s check out what he has to say on the subject.
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“Is This Child ‘Normal’ or Shall I Take Him to the Clinic?”
This quote is from the foreword to a book by the president of the British Psychological Society, published in 1956, and it neatly summed up the concerns the book was meant to address. The book’s splendid title: The Normal Child and Some of His Abnormalities.
A half century later, the language for talking about these things hasn’t gotten much more precise.
After our family moved across the country when our son Isaiah was a toddler, we had to complete a one-page questionnaire for his new daycare. The form was constructed like a Mad Libs game, with blanks for us to finish the sentences, and about halfway through it, we hit these:
Developmentally, my child is ___________________.
My child walked at ___________________________.
Isaiah at this point was in his mid-twos. He’d already run the terrifying gauntlet of early milestones. I had thought we were through with this.
At an interview a few months later for a preschool—long story, honest—the admissions director asked us, very earnestly, “And do you remember when he started to walk?” We tried to remember. “And is he meeting all his developmental milestones—running, climbing?” Climbing? Climbing what? We nodded numbly.