Musings On Development, Part 2: Talking and Not Walking

We know I’m a worrier and we know that my son has been on the late end of average for most things gross-motor. He’s almost 16 months old now and sure, enough, like I’ve been yapping away (“He’s a talker, not a walker…blah blah blah blah blah”) to anyone who would listen for a year, he’s not walking yet.

And practically everyone who would listen has told me about their nephew and niece and cousin and uncle and half brother and how they walked at 16, 17, 18, 19 months and they were just fine. And how it’s totally “normal” and one day my son will just stand up in the middle of a meadow or whatever and take off like Usain Bolt, and boy will I ever be in hell!

And I have inappropriately yelled at every single one of those well-meaning people, because walking at 18 months is not “normal.” The standard for “normal” when it comes to first-time walking is 11-14.5 months. This means 90 percent of kids do it between those ages. 90 percent. Indeed, the standard for “normal” for STANDING INDEPENDENTLY is up to 14 months. My son will not stand without holding on to something for more than about one second. But 90 percent of other kids will. I feel really guilty for harping on it, like I’m being one of those assholes who gets their toddler a private Mandarin tutor so they can have an advantage in the future economy. But, Jesus Christ, I’m talking about STANDING and WALKING, OK? This is some pretty basic and important shit.

So, what WILL he do? Everything but. He pulls up to stand. He walks holding on to furniture. He walks pushing furniture and push toys. He does “classic crawl” and he does a leg-dragging move that onlookers always find hilarious. He’s already torn holes in one pair of pants and ripped the threads out of one of his lone pair of sneakers from dragging himself around on concrete.

And, he talks. Oh, does he talk. He is almost embarrassingly verbal when we’re out in public and has been since he was quite small. He also has a very respectable number of vocabulary words* that he uses correctly on a regular basis. He’s still the best, albeit now with the occasional tantrum.

Given how sweet and happy and playful and verbal he is, I know I should try to be patient and continue to appreciate and cultivate his language, cognitive and fine motor development and just accept the fact that he’ll walk when he wants to, except that he does get frustrated and it’s interfering with LIFE. There are lots of playgrounds out here with cute little toddler areas with tiny little structures to climb and slide down and play with. The ground is that squishy rubbery stuff that we never had when we were kids because we just scraped all of our flesh off and bled recklessly all over each other on a day to day basis. But when the weather is nice, the ground gets HOT. One time, we tried to play at a playground LIKE YOU DO WHEN IT’S NICE OUT AND YOU’RE ONE, and he kept getting hysterical trying to crawl on the hot ground from play area to play area, but he also wouldn’t let me pick him up, nor let me walk him around holding his hands. He wanted to do it himself and it hurt his hands.

I’m very conscious about not becoming the kind of parent I find annoying. There’s a lot of talk on my Facebook newsfeed about coddling and helicoptering, including this article that was very popular recently. My preoccupation with his development feels annoying to me and I know that it must be annoying to others. I hate that I can’t relax, but I just want him to have the basic skills to do the things he wants to do. It’s also selfishness: I want to be able to sit on a park bench, have a conversation with a friend and watch him play, secure in the knowledge that he knows how to climb down feet first and that he’s not going to be falling on his head every 5 minutes.

I waited until his 15 month well-visit to see what the pediatrician had to say. He wasn’t too concerned, and when I said I wanted to call Early Intervention to try to get him evaluated for services, he said they probably wouldn’t approve him unless he was 18 months and not walking. Well, I didn’t want to wait the whole summer. I’ve asked around and it does take some time to get all the paperwork done before you actually start the physical therapy. So, I decided to get the ball rolling and get him evaluated. Better to deal with it now, I thought.

The evaluators came the other day and I’m still cringing with embarrassment. They sent a general special educator and a specialist in the area of concern- in this case, a physical therapist. Baby gave the performance of a lifetime: picking up the baby doll, calling it “baby” and giving it a kiss, pointing to a truck in a book and saying “wheel,” picking up a toy car and saying “wheel”, putting the circle in the shape sorter, trying to put the puzzle pieces in the puzzle, picking up the stuffed lion and saying “nannie” (his word for lion) and hugging it, giving me a kiss when they told him “Give mama a kiss.” When they arrived, he was in his high chair, eating finger foods and drinking from a straw cup, (which they complimented me on!). The evaluators were in love, but they said that even if he wasn’t walking by 18 months he still wouldn’t qualify for services because the state recently made it much more difficult to qualify. They told me to walk him around a bit, swaying side to side and to stand him up, lock his knees and let go: no more than 3-5 times a day.

And I feel really terrible and guilty about the whole thing. I feel guilty about wasting the Early Intervention evaluators’ time. I apologized, but they insisted it was a pleasure.

I feel guilty for whatever I might’ve done wrong to delay his walking: my head says nothing- it’s genetic, it’s his personality- but my craziness says it MUST be my fault somehow.

I feel guilty for obsessing this much. I feel guilty for whining to other moms who have their own fucking problems and don’t need to listen to my first-world bullshit. I feel guilty for calling my son’s vocabulary “respectable” when it’s really very good.

I had a blissful few months of not being worried about this stuff anymore. Once he was finally able to pull himself up to stand and cruise shortly before his first birthday, I figured it would be any day. I’ve been saying “He’ll be walking in a month” for 4 straight months. WHEN DOES IT EVER STOP?

*Respectable number of vocabulary words (for the record, as of 05/29/13): toe, up, ball, wheel, nose (“no”), doggie (“deedee”), baby, apple, elbow, bottle (“baa”), lion (“nannie”), NO, and knee.


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