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Dropping Out of the Baby Milestones Rat Race

My baby is using a fork and it's kind of epic, in my eyes, anyway.Yesterday, my baby used his fork and it was EPIC.

My 16-month-old used the baby-sized utensil to pick up wisps of lettuce and expertly put them in his mouth. And these weren’t crisp, easy-to-spear lettuce pieces either — they were soggy, droopy bits softened by ketchup (don’t ask), and yet my petite foodie managed to transport them all to his mouth the civilized way!

Like I said, EPIC!

…Or, maybe, not. After all, my kid mastered the use of a fork, not the use of, say, a flamethower. But I think any parent will agree with me that it’s easy to get excited over the littlest milestones. Watching your child develop, slowly but surely, from a helpless infant to a walking, talking human can be pure joy.

Less joyous, however, is the need to quantify and compare everything. Clearly, keeping track of baby milestones is important, particularly if you’re concerned about developmental delays. But what makes me uncomfortable is the idea of constantly comparing your child to others to see if he’s “advanced,” “precocious,” “way smarter than Steven Hawking,” “way smarter than whatever baby Steven Hawking and Marie Curie would have produced if time travel existed and they had a lovechild” … well, you get the point.

From my perspective, playing the “who did it first” game is just a rat race, where the prize is fleeting bragging rights — typically-developing babies often catch up to the leaders of the pack — instead of delicious cheese. (Unless, of course, you reward your baby’s milestones with cheese. Yum!)

When my son first started showing interest in using his utensils a couple of months ago, I did wonder whether he was, in fact, doing so earlier than his older brother, earlier than the neighbor’s kid, and earlier than theoretical Hawking-Curie progeny. Still, I stopped myself from consulting Dr. Google to learn the earliest ages that babies have been known to spoon and fork things to their heart’s content.

I suppressed similar urges yesterday. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if he was among the first or plain old average. For this mom, watching her baby skillfully go to town on his red-tinged lettuce was a very special moment, period.

As for the baby rat race? I’ll stick a fork in it ’cause I’m done. Better yet, I’ll have my baby do it.

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