The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The bell curve

This week, Evan will be 9 1/2 months, which is the age that Julia was when she took her first steps. We watched the video of her first wobbly efforts at upright mobility this weekend, and it looked downright preposterous to see her walking unaided that young, particularly when we turned to look at Evan sitting happily on the floor where we'd left him. With the exception of a strange inchworm motion that involves lifting his tush as high in the air as possible (picture a cat stretching), then collapsing down a centimeter or two behind where he started, Evan's not really moving much just yet. He can turn in circles on his belly and he can sloooowly propel himself backwards using his arms (it's faster if I put him on the tile instead of the carpet, but the amount of dirt he sweeps up off my floor that way is too embarrassing), but for all intents and purposes, he's not crawling yet. He's also not getting into a sitting position on his own, pulling up or cruising. Essentially, he's a very cute lump. So to watch his sister, at exactly the same age, actually stand up and WALK somewhere, well, it was a strange juxtaposition.

All of the child development books have charts with bell curves that show when children should be expected to reach standard developmental milestones. There is no "right" age for the mastery of most skills, the experts tell us, but most kids seem to fall somewhere in the middle of a several-month range. As my pediatrician so nicely puts it, both Julia and Evan appear not to have read the manual. Neither of my kids ever seem to fall in that nice big arch in the middle where the vast majority of the population lies. Julia is nearly always at the very beginning and sweet Evan brings up the rear nearly every time. There are notable exceptions, of course -- at nearly 3, Julia still can't pedal a trike to save her life and Evan was sitting beautifully at 5 months. But for the most part, for everything from the arrival of teeth (Julia's started to come in at 4 months and Evan's are still MIA) to standing independently (8 months for Julia and no time soon for Evan), my kids neatly fall in those tiny little flat lines at either end that make the bell curve actually look like a bell.

I put Julia's baby book away months ago when it became clear that Evan's timeline would be so different than hers -- I knew it would be unfair to compare. But my kids' birthdays are only a few weeks apart, so even if I'm not actively trying to remember, the seasons still remind me -- I know that Julia was crawling in summer clothing, standing alone when we went to Nantucket in September, taking steps on Halloween, etc., etc. And while I know intellectually that Evan's still perfectly in the range of normal, it's hard not to keep wondering if he's doing OK when the difference in timing between Julia's beginning of the bell curve milestones and Evan's end of the curve accomplishments is so vast.

At the end of the day, I really do know that none of this developmental stuff is going to make an iota of difference. Even now, when I watch Julia's 3 year old friends play, it's hard to remember (and downright impossible to discern if you don't already know) who was running circles around whom 2 years ago. Evan's my last baby, and I'm not opposed to keeping him that way just a little while longer -- it's frankly easier to have a kid who stays where you put him and plays with his toys. But every time someone asks me if he's cruising yet, I feel a little apologetic when I say he's not even crawling. Every time I put him down next to another baby his age and watch the other child crawl circles around him, I feel the need to make excuses for his inactivity. Every time a younger baby reaches a milestone he's not yet close to accomplishing, I feel a little anxious about when he'll be doing those things, too. And even though I try so hard not to compare, every time I reminisce about his sister's first year, I find myself obsessively counting weeks, trying to figure out how those memories measure up to Evan's development. Evan's only human... he'll do what he's wired to do when he's ready to do it. But I'm only human, too, and as his mother, I'm going to worry until that happens.


At 7:59 PM, Blogger Gretchen C. said...

My Matt was a late walker -- he didn't walk until 14 or 15 months. He's such a little go-getter now, it's hard to believe that not that long ago I was worried he would have to crawl to kindergarten. They really all do things in their own time, but I know how easy it is to worry.


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