When my son was 6.5 months and still couldn’t sit up, wasn’t mobile, and didn’t have any teeth I was a worried. ” Why can all these other children his age do these things and he can’t?” ”Are we doing something wrong?” ”Have I done something to screw up his development?” ”Am I a horrible dad?” The rational part of me knew none of this was true but the emotional part of me couldn’t help being anxious about my son’s development. We are loving parents and I work hard to provide my son with a fun and stimulating environment every day but it is easy to doubt one’s ability as a parent. After all, I’ve never done this before right? How should I know what is best? I’ve just read a few books and talked to friends and family about how to raise a child right? When a milestone is finally reached it is truly amazing but the implications of that achievement can be quite scary. For example once a child can move around the room on their own it opens up a whole new world of potential injuries and necessitates significant room layout rethinking and hours of baby proofing work. I call this phenomenon “Joy in a fear sandwich.” The sandwich’s meat is so tasty but that bread can suck sometimes!
There is a lot of fear surrounding developmental milestones, but it’s amazing how quickly all of that disappeared the first time I saw my son stay sitting up on his own. In my years with the YMCA I taught 1000+ children how to do everything from swim, to kick a soccer ball but this moment topped them all in terms of how proud I was. When it comes down to it I probably had little to do with him figuring it out, but I felt proud as though I had directly created the nerve connections and muscle capacity that enabled him to do it. Perhaps some of that pride was because my anxiety about him not sitting up yet was gone. I have to admit that it was getting the best of me when I started practicing sitting up with him much more than I had when he first reached 6 months old. I was so worried that I hadn’t been working with him on it enough! At that time I was thinking, “He’s just turned 6 months old he’ll figure it out in the next couple of weeks.” Those weeks passed with no real improvement so I began practicing more with him but I still did not see him getting any better at it which only fueled my anxiety about his development. O ended my anxiety and fear about his development in one joyful 24 hour period during which my now 7 month old son got his first tooth, mastered the continuous roll, and managed to stay upright without assistance. It’s like his little brain and body reached the point where they were ready and he started doing all sorts of new stuff all at once.
I know my role as a parent is important to his development, but I think sometimes I worry too much. I am a stay at home dad and my entire day revolves around the well being of my son so I think this amplifies my natural parenting fears. I don’t mind because the added anxiety is far outweighed by my joy in witnessing these incredible moments that will only come once in his life. I have a sneaking suspicion that these amazing moments will almost always be book-ended by some degree of anxiety and fear but I know that the pride and joy I will feel will be worth it.
The fear about his development is gone now but it has been replaced by the terror of a mobile baby in an apartment that is not baby proofed. I’m sure I’ll have a post coming soon about that journey, but in the meantime please share your baby proofing suggestions or stories below in the comments section!