From the moment you pee on a stick, the worry begins. Scratch that. From the moment that a woman has the twinkle in her eye that indicates that the prospect of a baby would be a blessing and not a curse, the worry begins.
Will I be able to conceive? Will this pregnancy be a sticky one? Will my baby be healthy? Will labor and delivery traumatize me to the point that I will never, ever dream of facing the prospect of giving my child a sibling?
The tricky part is that once you bring your child home, the worry doesn’t wane – if anything, it amplifies. Has he made enough wet and dirty diapers? Is he eating too often? Too much? Not enough? Is he making enough eye contact? Will he ever sleep? (Will I ever sleep?) When will he roll over? Crawl? Cruise? Walk?
Because babies grow and change so much and so often, it’s easy to get lost in the milestone game, wondering if your child is ahead of or behind his peers. If he’s developing and progressing at a proper rate. If he’s normal. I’ve written a bit before about comparing milestones, and how it can make you crazy, but no milestone has driven me crazier than walking.
There. I said it out loud. (Well, on the internet loud. You guys get it.)
Little C is 14.5 months and has taken zero steps. His interest in walking is nearly nonexistent. Nine times out of ten, if Mr. Confetti or I try to have him walk holding our hands, he will slump back to the ground or mightily hold his body in a pike position dangling from our arms. He has friends who are younger than him (some by several months) who can run laps around him while he insists on traversing the world on all fours. We visit playgrounds where his friends can neatly march across the wood chips, while C gets roughed-up knees and palms and comes home a hot, filthy mess. Hovering somewhere around 25 pounds, my little man is giving me the world’s most gigantic left bicep, since he can’t safely crawl in many places where I would happily let him toddle beside me.
Mamas of late-walking babies, I know you can relate. To the scraped knees, the filthy pants, the sore backs (yours, not the baby’s), the extended neediness from a less independent kiddo. But listen up, ladies. Listen to my mantra. Babies reach every milestone at their own pace. Reaching the walking phase can happen anywhere from 9 months to 18 months without even sounding worry alarms for potential intervention. As much as it drives their parents crazy, kids move at their own pace. Dr. Sears explains that walking has much more involved than muscle strength. It also incorporates balances, and even more important, temperament.
Late walkers are more likely to be content to entertain themselves with seeing and fingering fun than with motor accomplishments. A late walker goes through the crawl-cruise-stand-walk sequence slowly and cautiously, calculating each step and progressing at his own comfortable rate. When he does finally walk, he walks well.
Some kids are fearless, some are more cautious, and some, like Little C, hover somewhere in between. This cautious temperament can be frustrating for mom and dad, but there are other benefits to having a late walker. A casual googling will lead you to all sorts of commentary about how “cross crawling,” moving arms and legs in opposition as baby crawls, is a crucial step for brain development and intelligence. I think some parents of late walking kids like to give themselves a pep talk with these sorts of citations (although the original studies are quite old and very tough to find), convincing their tired arms and backs that all of this schlepping, crouching and chasing of these creepy crawlers will lead to future Mensa membership. I highly doubt that there is substantive correlation between crawling and intelligence, but you better believe that I like to think of it from time to time, when surrounded at the park by walking toddlers younger than C or when I get another snide remark from a neighbor about Little C’s lack of stepping skills.
While C crawls with reckless abandon, climbs on everything in sight and will pull up and cruise along anything taller and stronger than himself, he isn’t ready to let go. If he let go today, his walking would likely resemble how I walked at 2 a.m. on a Friday night in college, drunkenly trying to traverse brick roads in high heels. There would be stumbling, and I will leave it at that. He will wait, practicing diligently while holding on to the furniture, until he marches off on his own, to the steady beat of his own drum. And that is 100% okay.
Moms of late walkers, do you get frustrated about this milestone?