Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Proceed with Caution

Dear Delilah,

I recently read an article about letting kids develop at their own pace, rather than pushing them to meet certain milestones by a certain age and panicking if those milestones are delayed (in the absence of true medical problems). There was some controversy surrounding some of the statements made in that article, but the spirit behind it resonated with and comforted me.

Just over a week ago, you took your first independent steps, at a little over 16 months old. To this day, you have never crawled in the traditional sense, and with how well you've perfected your butt scoot, I doubt you ever will. According to most developmental charts, you've been on the late end for many of the physical milestones. It's something that your father and I have gone back and forth between fretting about and reassuring each other that you will walk in your own time, when you're good and ready for it. Our doctor has been the one who has been the most reassuring, insisting that your two legs work just fine, that the progress you are making is right on track, and that there is no cause for alarm or intervention.

When I read Mayim Bialik's account of her own children's development, which occurred at a slower rate than yours, and resulted in children who are happy and healthy, it felt like a breath of fresh air. So many mothers compare their children to others in infancy and toddlerhood; comparing notes about when, where, what, and how much they eat, sleep, poop, talk, and walk. My guess is that this tendency to compare transitions as children do, moving on to comparing their academic achievements and participation in extra-curricular activities, and eventually to their careers, marriages, and families of their own, when we get to start comparing our grandchildren to one another!

Each child is unique and develops at a different pace, focusing on different aspects of growth. While other babies your age were crawling, you were perfecting the art of feeding yourself with a spoon. While other babies were pulling up and cruising, you were saying your own 3-syllable name clearly. This makes you no better or worse than any other baby. Eventually, it all evens out, and most people end up walking, talking, eating, and sleeping just fine.

Image Source: www.safetyhelp.org
I've started to notice that what some might call delays in development are actually part of the development of your personality. You are a cautious individual. You prefer to look before you leap. You seem to want to make sure that you have a way out of a situation before you figure out how to get into it. Before you were started pulling up, you taught yourself how to sit from standing. Before you started seating yourself, you perfected laying down from a seated position. You've never tried to climb up onto the couch, bed, or chair, but have put concerted efforts into carefully climbing off of them. Now that you've taken a few tentative steps; you've shifted your focus to perfecting your fall (we've seen far fewer bruises since you learned the art of breaking your fall with your hands, rather than your head).

As you continue to grow and develop; it will be interesting to see whether this characteristic cautiousness sticks with you, and if so, how it comes to serve you in your endeavors. Giving forethought to new experiences is not a problem to be solved. Taking steps to determine your exit strategy before entering is likely to prevent both injury and heartache as you proceed through life. This isn't to say that risk-taking is without its benefits, and I hope that you'll come to enjoy the thrill of the unknown in due time.

Before I know it, you'll be running, climbing, and jumping all over the place; and I'll look back and be grateful at how gradually you eased me into the trials of toddlerhood!


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  1. Great post! I have found there to be some benefit to comparisons... just steering clear of competitions :) Wait until (if) you have another! Watching your own develop in their own ways according to their own timetables is such a kick... and sometimes a challenge.

  2. Love this post Joella and Delilah. Beautifully stated! Becky D

  3. Wow, Joella. We are totally on the same page! Amazing.

  4. Now see, this worried me about my own situation. It is common to push children with DS to help them reach their developmental milestones. Otherwise, they can tend to reach them very late. They even have therapists to come to our home to help with it. What's a mom to do??


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