August 18, 2019

When Your Child Is Late to Meet a Developmental Milestone

“My friend Jane’s son was born three months after my own daughter. Now that they are in second grade, you’d hardly notice this age difference at all, but early on, it was hard to believe that would ever be true. When Benjamin was born, Penelope seemed like a giant. When he was a floppy 6-week-old infant, she was 4 and a half months old, well on her way toward being a real, solid, baby.

But then came walking. At a year, like the average kid, Benjamin got up and started toddling around. Not Penelope. By the time he was walking, she was fifteen months old and seemed to show no inclination. It is sometimes easy to ignore the way your children differ from the average, but walking was so visible, so salient. Plus, we saw Benjamin all the time, so it was hard to avoid comparisons.

At Penelope’s 15-month well-child visit, our very practical and pragmatic pediatrician, Dr. Li, told me not to worry that she wasn’t walking. “If she’s not walking by 18 months,” she said, “we’ll call in early intervention. But don’t worry! She’ll figure it out.” I did not have Dr. Li’s relaxed confidence or breadth of experience. I tried to explain to Penelope how to walk; she didn’t care. I tried to provide incentives, which were ineffective. You recall: She was a baby.

And then, about two weeks after the doctor visit, Penelope walked. Just like it was no big deal. Perhaps because she was so old by the time she learned, she never fell down much, either, just went from crawling around to walking normally in a day or two. And then I promptly forgot about my fear that she would never walk and moved on to other neuroses. (There are always more neuroses around the corner when you’re parenting.)”

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