After spending time with some relatives on the weekend, I left feeling anxious for my cousin.
“My son has not hit one milestone early or on time,” she said of her toddler (her only child).
“He was late to sit up, late to crawl, late to walk and now late to talk. When someone asks me how many words he has, I feel like I might as well be wearing a sign that says, ‘I’m a crap mother who doesn’t engage with my child enough’.”
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She even suggested that she might put him into childcare a couple of days a week, at the prompting of a friend, so he could potentially learn more from the educators than he might learn at home with her.
I asked her where she felt all of this pressure was coming from.
Family, friends, online, social media, playgroup: these were some of the sources of her anxiety, she admitted.
“Everyone seems to be nailing it as a parent,” she said, “and I feel like I’m failing him.”
My advice to her – and to every other mum or dad who is experiencing the same feelings – is straight to the point.
Please don’t stress!
Kids hit different milestones at different times. One of my kids crawled at 5 months, while another didn’t even think about crawling ‘til a week before turning 1. My eldest could write her own name at 2 ½, but my other daughter is just starting to work it out now, aged 4.
Whether your kids go to childcare or not, they are learning every moment. They’re like tiny sponges: they learn from absolutely everything!
Going to the shops, mingling at playgroup, watching you cook, trailing you as you do housework, and (my personal favourite), overhearing your conversations… Whatever you are doing, they are watching, listening, absorbing and learning.
Sometimes, they just take their time in processing that learning into action.
I truly do wonder if parenting was easier a few decades ago? Before there were strategies to ponder, sleep training regimes to consider and philosophies to follow, parents just… parented. A return to this less structured way of raising kids could be just what the doctor ordered.