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What IS the new normal?

Over the holiday, I had the pleasure of meeting a sort-of relative. One of those “by marriage” people that you don’t stumble upon at the local family gatherings because they live out of state, but still part of the same family. This person is1186749_10151856950873926_1881180095_n delightful. She is eight months pregnant with a boy. And she made me think back to two years ago when I was in the (almost) same boat, just a few months behind.

She recently posted this on her facebook page. Yes, I stalk people that are new friends. Everyone does. This article is basically true. Honest, and true.

I, too, read lots of books while pregnant. I have mommy friends from all over the place, and whose beliefs are also all over the place. I heard from friends about water births, midwives, doulas, C-sections, labors that lasted for 30-plus hours, drugs, natural. You set the schedule. Let your child set the schedule. Breastfeeding versus formula. After all of these points of view, let me say this: for every child on this earth, there is a unique way to raise that child.

As everyone knows, the actual labor and delivery was the part that scared the bejesus out of me. But as everyone also knows, Canaan’s birth story was practically a fairy tale. I’m still not doing it again. It’s not the delivery that makes me want to run away, it’s the newborn phase.

I took advice from everyone. In my personal experience, the book that worked best was “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp. To tell you the truth, reading about imaginary unborn babies is a big snoozefest. You should keep those books on hand for insomnia-laden nights in the future. Here is what I took from skimming this particular book: Follow the Eat/Play/Sleep pattern. This means not to let your newborn fall asleep while, or immediately following, eating. Make him stay awake for a little bit and play with him, and THEN put him to sleep. Not sure why this works, but it’s the only “official” advice we followed, and C has been sleeping 12 consecutive hours through the night since four months of age.

The lesson in this is that children thrive on routine and schedules. I’ve gotten a lot of flak from family members about being so rigid in my routine with my son, but he’s happy, well-adjusted, and generally in a great mood. There have been times when he’s had to stay up late for reasons beyond my control, and he did very well. I like to think that’s because on every other day, he knows what to expect, and on the rare special occasion that he stays up late, it’s an exciting treat akin to going on vacation.

Everyone tells you about “milestones.” Your child should eat his first solid food at this time, and speak at this time, and run an obstacle course at this time. My son refused to walk until he was SIXTEEN MONTHS OLD. I fully expected him to walk around his first birthday, like every other “normal” child. Nope. Didn’t happen. We took him to the doctor, who sent him to a pediatric physical therapist. They didn’t do anything, so we went to another physical therapist. He failed every test. Two weeks later, we took him back, and he passed everything. Bam. Just started walking on my mom’s birthday. Because he was READY. Because he finally felt like it. Now, at 25 months, he runs and (thinks he) jumps and is all over the place.

It’s impossible to be sane and not compare your child with others. I read about a year ago that children don’t understand the concept of color until two to three years of age. A few months ago, I was chatting with a dear friend about her son, who is seven months older than mine. He knows his colors, so either he’s the next Salvador Dali, or that article I read was incorrect. (But they can’t put it on the internet if it’s not true!) Canaan, stubborn child that he is, doesn’t know his colors, and it’s not for lack of trying. He knows the names of them, and sometimes he guesses correctly, but I know that he doesn’t understand the concept. But I also thought he would never learn his shapes, and now he knows all the key ones, plus “hexagon.” (Thank you, Sesame Street.)

This goes back to the “don’t compare your kid” statement, but one of the hardest things about being a first-time parent is not knowing what is necessarily “normal.” Canaan’s friend at the sitter walked at nine months. Of course, I spent the next seven months wondering what was wrong with C. Why wouldn’t he walk? This other kid is gearing up for his first marathon, and C won’t take a step without holding a hand. He talks all the time, and those close to him know what he’s saying about 80% of the time. He says a lot of gibberish, yeah, but he gets his point and basic needs across. And he’s always doing his best to make us laugh. Hell, he’s only two and he’s already funnier than Jerry Seinfeld. His vocabulary is quite extensive, and he likes to show it off by pointing out EVERY.SINGLE.THING.HE.SEES. But is he on track? I don’t know, because I don’t have a child ruler to measure him against.

I was convinced for the longest time that C would never grow; he seemed to hit a lull around 18 months and nothing happened. He turned two and could still wear 12-month pants. Would he be stuck with the family curse of the short legs? Would he ever grow? What would happen to the closet full of 2T gear? Would it just go to waste? Would he be stuck wearing snap onesie shirts FOREVER?

No. He hit a spurt and he grew. One week after his second birthday, he was wearing 2T across the board. Even his pants with his super-short legs.

My rambling point in all of this: all moms worry. It is our destiny, our duty, our curse. I am fortunate to have several friends with older children (bonus on waiting till I was 32 to have a kid), but I also know several gals who are just heading down this road. My advice? Worry. Because you can’t help it; it’s normal. But don’t freak out. You’ll get through. Your kid will be fine. Your kid will be an individual, all the way. Short, tall, stubborn, late-bloomer, early talker, you name it: he or she is yours. Forever. Soak in every minute, because it does, indeed, go by much too quickly.

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