At a recent excursion to the park with my daughter, I was approached by a couple of other moms who also had their toddlers in tow. We engaged in pleasantries and then the inquisition commenced.
When did your daughter start sleeping through the night?
Did you breastfeed? Have you started potty training?
How many words can she say?
How many languages does she speak?
When did she start walking?
What play groups does she attend?
Do you have her on the waiting list for preschool?
What?! She is ONE. Should I feel amiss because I have not pushed her to hit particular milestones or signed her up for preschool? I just could not help but think, “What’s the rush?”
Rush #1: The Race to Sleep Through the Night
I get the desire, nay the NEED to rush this milestone. My daughter is nearly two years old and has never slept through the night. As in, ever. Most days I resemble an extra from the television show, The Walking Dead.
My daughter, on the other hand, is happy, healthy, and bursting with energy. My pediatrician informed me that sleeping for only two to three-hour increments is simply “her normal”.
Do not get me wrong, I would love it if my daughter could sleep through the night, but I do not feel like a failure as a parent because she has not achieved this milestone.
I do not personally believe in the Ferber “cry it out” method, but I have read a stack of books on the subject of sleep training. I have tried all of the tips and tricks for sleep training like adhering to a consistent bedtime routine, warm baths, and the use of essential oils.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley made me think about baby sleep habits in an entirely different way. I realize now where I went awry when my daughter was an infant.
Instead of waiting just a moment or two to allow my daughter to settle back to sleep in between sleep cycles, I would immediately rush to her side to soothe her back to sleep myself. There is a happy place between “cry it out” and immediately responding to your child’s nighttime cries that I am still trying to navigate.
These strategies may work for you, although they have not worked for me…yet. However, if you have tried everything in the book and your little one still has not slept through the night at eight months or eight years old, do not despair. Tell yourself that it is okay and eventually sleep will happen. Then, tell your significant other that you are going to take a nap!
Rush #2: The Race to Go Mobile
My daughter started walking at thirteen months. I have a friend whose daughter did not start walking until eighteen months and another whose daughter pretty much came out of the womb strolling. This milestone is achieved at such widely different times and in such widely different ways.
If your child is not walking yet, do not panic. Do not compare your child to their peers. If you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician and heed his/her advice, not that of the mommies from your playgroup.
There is a difference between encouraging your child and pushing your child. I did not give my daughter a walker or make her hold my hands to “walk”, but every time she released her clutches on the furniture and bravely took a few steps in my direction, I clapped as if she had just won an Academy Award.
I allowed her the time she needed to build both her muscle strength and her confidence. In that in-between time before your child starts walking, enjoy it. This is the time where your child is the perfect muse. They actually just lie there and allow you to take pictures of them!
Before I knew it, my daughter was not only walking, she was galloping and then sprinting through the house at full speed, leaving a path of destruction in her wake. Although I now love walking with my daughter hand-in-hand more than words can describe, I am grateful I did not rush her.
That moment when your child opens their arms wide and takes those first few wobbly steps towards you is so sweet. Don’t rush it, savor it.
Here is what I have learned in my short time as a parent. Every child is like a snowflake; so unique that one cannot be compared to another.
I cannot even compare my daughter to what my husband or I were like at her age. She is so completely her own person. I especially cannot compare her to another child.
Looking back on what she has already mastered is amazing. I get excited to think about the big, wide world that is just out there waiting for her as she learns and grows.
However, the next time I receive the Spanish Inquisition on the playground, I am just going to smile politely and walk away. I am going to resist the pressure to keep up with the Jones’ or Kardashians or whoever it is these days. I am just going to enjoy my little snowflake.
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Read Part 2 of my article on “What’s the Rush?” for Creative Child Magazine here.
What milestone did you rush or sweetly savor? Please share below!