Comparing Toddler Milestones Is Never A Good Idea

little geniusLast weekend I broke one of the cardinal rules necessary for low stress parenting – never compare your child’s developmental milestones to another kid’s.

I confess that I have a type A personality. I loved school so much that growing up I would drag my mom to the store right after the 4th of July every year to stock up on notebooks and binders. I would spend days labeling and organizing in preparation for back to school. Sticky notes were (and still are) my jam.

I still enjoy learning, so when my twins were newborns I would fill the empty hours during naps with online research. When I wasn’t searching for baby food recipes or trying to reassure myself that they would turn out alright despite being fed formula, I looked up baby milestones.

At one of their first pediatrician visits, I mentioned my concerns to our doctor that the boys weren’t doing things they were supposed to according to various parenting websites and online mom chat forums. To our pediatrician’s credit, he managed to keep his composure and didn’t laugh directly in my face as he told me no good could come from comparing my kids to others. He advised me to stay off the internet and just watch that they continued to make progress in development. He told me to enjoy my kids and focus on the fact that they were making progress, rather than when it was happening.

I trust our pediatrician completely, so from that point on I channeled my nerdy needs elsewhere and chilled out on the baby milestones. At nineteen months, my babies are actually toddlers now. They take weekly gymnastics classes and we try to make it to story time at the library. Between seeing them interact with other kids roughly their age and regular pediatrician visits, I haven’t worried at all about their development – until last weekend.

We made the six hour drive to visit my husband’s family. The trip was great and I especially loved spending time with my niece, who is only two weeks younger than my boys. The only dark spot to the trip was one I made myself. I couldn’t help but notice that there were things my little niece can do that my kids can’t, such as recognizing letters, using full sentences and throwing a ball. My previously dormant student brain went into panic mode. My niece and my boys are not only the exact same age, but they also share a gene pool, so surely they should be on the same developmental level? I completely ignored the fact that my boys just had a very successful doctor visit with no cause for concern. I forgot that they recently learned a few baby signs and are starting to climb down stairs. I let myself focus on all the things they aren’t doing, and then I blamed myself.

I watched my sister-in-law interact with her daughter and talk about how she had turned her living room into a preschool. I mentally took notes because I was convinced I was doing something wrong. On the drive home I made plans to read more, sing more, start doing flashcards. I started looking on Pinterest for sensory boards and toddler learning games. I vowed to spend less time on the internet and more time interacting with my kids.

Luckily, my husband is more rational than I am, so when I shared with him my plans for moving the television to make room for a map of the world, he intervened. I know my toddlers are where they need to be developmentally and that they will learn at their own rate, so I should try not to stress out about it too much. I’m working on regaining my nonchalant attitude about it…but I’m also working on some flashcards.


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