On Developmental Milestones

You know how at certain points in life, everything happens all at once? That has been this summer for Eloise—so many milestones within weeks.

First she lost her first two teeth. Then on our beach vacation (which I have meant to do a post about but blogging just isn't happening right now) she woke up one day and read half of Hop on Pop to me! A book that we rarely read, so it wasn't from memory. She also started to swim on that vacation, and she has since passed the swim test at the pool so she's able to go down the big slide, which she loves.

When we got home, she figured out how to ride her bike with no training wheels and pump her legs on the swings. She told me, "I feel like such a big kid now. I feel like I can do anything."

My heart swelled for her because this is exactly how I want her to feel. And in a month from today she'll be off to kindergarten!

Yesterday at the pool there was a little girl who was probably about four, and her parent/guardian was pressuring her to take off her swimmy and get in the water. As a result, she wouldn't even get in the water WITH it on. He was pointing to all the kids around her, mine included, as examples: (to Mimi) "How old are you? See, she's only three and look at her swim!" He even went as far to tell the little girl, "You're never going to learn to swim then." My heart broke for her!

What is the rush? I wonder. Why are we obsessed with rushing milestones and development? Maybe it's social media playing into our fears—if so-and-so's daughter is reading and swimming and riding her bike at 4, should my kids? I have no qualms about admitting that I am strictly in the anti-development camp, and right around the 9/10 month mark, when all three kids began to pull up to standing, I get the urge to start knocking them down and delaying all the other milestones because that's when things begin to get busier.

I have never done flashcards with my kids. We don't do worksheets, or workbooks. We did one silly session of swim lessons for Eloise a couple years ago that yielded no results. Nick only worked with Eloise on the bike riding a handful of times, and when it became clear she wasn't ready last summer, we put the training wheels back on for a year. We don't actively "work on things." We just play. We do open-ended art, play outside a lot, build block towers, read picture books, and do puzzles. (Of course we also watch TV...don't think we don't.)

Certainly there are cases when some of the above things may be helpful or warranted, and thus far I don't have a child with special needs, so I'm only speaking about a typically developing young child. I'm sure things change as kids get older. And I totally understand the mentality that we are enriching our children's lives by providing these things. But I would venture to say that as a whole, our babies and toddlers would be much better served by more play and fewer structured activities, and we as parents would be better served by having faith that the developmental milestones will come when they're ready.

(language alert below)

I came across this poem the other day and think it is so beautiful. Yes, this world can be a scary, fallen place. But I want to raise my children to believe otherwise, to see the beauty, the potential, and to hopefully make a difference. I am KILLING MYSELF to just make it through the day right now, huffing and puffing through mindless, menial tasks, eternally frustrated that I can't seem to get a single thing done, and often feeling like I'm drowning.

But I'd like to believe there's a point to it. I am not solving world peace, but when I'm at my best, if I can make my children feel loved and secure, they are more likely to believe the world is a peaceful place. If they feel like they have agency over the timing of their development, and if we celebrate their milestones as they come in their own time, they're more apt to think that the world is their oyster and have the mindset of "I can make this place beautiful" rather than feeling small and overwhelmed and oppressed by it all.

Let's let development happen on its own and just let our kids be kids for now. They have such a very long time to be adults.

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