Milestones and the Comparison Trap

When I had my first baby, I looked forward to the day he’d walk, say “Mama”, and wave goodbye. We lived in a neighborhood with lots of other babies, so it was fun to see what milestones they were hitting and at what age.


My anticipation soon turned to annoyance, then fear, as my child didn’t do everything “on time”. (Well, according to the charts and the other parents.) I didn’t realize at the time that most charts list averages, which means that half of kids will do those things later than the listed age. Also, living around lots of other babies meant that my child seemed to learn things later. I failed to realize that many of those kids were several months older, which makes a huge difference during the first year of development.

Since that first baby, I had 4 more. 4 of the 5 were “late” at rolling, sitting, crawling, and walking. The one who was “early” helped me realize that it wasn’t my negligence (a lack of attention or tummy time) that made the others develop later. They learned at their own pace. #4 learned earlier because he wanted to, and now I can’t keep him out of trouble! Despite a 6 month difference in when my kids took their first steps, they can all walk like experts.


On the opposite end of things, my kids have all been “early” on learning speech. All of them so far can speak fairly clearly and in full sentences by age 2 1/2. More than once, parents have expressed concern about their children not having the same capability as mine. I assure them that this, like the “late” walking, also isn’t my fault. I am no better at reading to my kids than the average parent. Never have I sent them to preschool or done flashcards to force them into talking. It just happens. For my family, talking “early” and walking “late” are the trends we follow.


I guess what I’m trying to say is this:

  1. Normal fits in a wide range. (This is true for adult milestones, too!)
  2. Don’t worry about your child’s development unless your doctor does. Too often, I let other parents make me think that my child didn’t walk yet because I hadn’t done enough to help him learn. Nope.
  3. Comparison really is the thief of joy. Avoid comparing your kids to any others, including siblings to each other. It’s hard, I know. I’m still working on that with my older kids as they hit different milestones, like learning to read.
  4. Reaching a milestone “early” doesn’t mean your child is gifted, and reaching one “late” doesn’t mean your child is falling behind.

I’m grateful for my wonderful children and all they’ve taught me so far. One of the best things I can do for them is to provide a loving home for them to grow in without constantly pressuring them to grow faster than they need to. They are all different from each other and wonderfully so.


2 thoughts on “Milestones and the Comparison Trap”

  1. Thank you! I needed this reminder especially over the break, with so many nieces and nephews developing at different rates and not simply because of parenting differences. It’s interesting too how some comparisons come more naturally to me.

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