Saturday, January 21, 2012

Don't Trust The Baby Books

          You know how every pregnant woman has to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting?  And then once the baby is born, we all fall prey to the books that tell us exactly – to the minute – when our child will roll over, sit up, crawl, climb, walk, talk, learn the alphabet, speak Spanish fluently. . .  We’re ready.  We now know EXACTLY what to expect.  I even knew a mother who wrote on her calendar that she could expect her daughter to accomplish certain milestones on that day.  Her husband would call from work and ask her if the little girl had spoken her first word yet or crawled yet.  They really expected that because she was a certain age, it would happen – that day.  And, what is worse, they were crestfallen that she did not.  Then they began to worry.  Something must be wrong with their child!
Real life throws us curve balls.  The baby doesn’t sleep – ever!  The baby is hungry – always!  The baby doesn’t crawl on cue, but he reels in his toys by pulling on the blanket Mommy has placed him on so that he doesn’t get dirty (heaven forbid a child should get dirty!).  The toy is five feet away from baby lying on his tummy.  He looks at the rattle and says to himself, “Self, I may not know how to get to that toy yet, but I can make it come to me!” and he proceeds to pull on the blanket until the toy is within his reach.  Hmmm, thinks the mother, as she frantically searches the books on the shelf looking for the chapter on rodeo babies lassoing and reeling in toys.  What do you know?  It isn’t in there.
  Or how about the little roller?  A friend told me how she laughed as her son rolled all over the house.  One day, her husband was about to stop him as he approached the stairs, but they were carpeted, the baby was pretty well padded with a diaper, and there were only two little stairs, so she persuaded him to stand back and see what happened.  Sure enough!  Down went the barrel racer (No, wait, barrel racers race around barrels.  They’re not the barrels, are they?)  Kaboom, kerplunk, smile!  Boy, was he proud of himself.  He had navigated another floor of the house all by himself at only 6 months.  Hearing his parents’ gasps quickly followed by laughter just gave him courage and off he went across the living room floor – rolling, rolling, rolling.   Just for the record, that’s not in the baby books, either.
Then there was the little bundle of joy who, at about 6 months of age began making the most adorable face.  Everyone thought it was just the cutest thing the way he scrunched up his little nose and rubbed his eyes.  They lovingly referred to it as his “piggy face” because he really did flatten his little nose.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t until years later that his parents realized the poor little guy had allergies and was trying to relieve the annoying itching.  Again, no “If baby makes piggy face, he has allergies” entry in the books.
When you have a child who doesn’t follow the rules that the books set forth, for the average child,  you find yourself in a sort of no man’s land.  You no longer know what to expect.  You might turn your back and find your little one at the top of a flight of stairs that you knew you had to gate, but not for a couple of months yet.  Or, you might hear a crash in the night and realize, to your sleepy horror, that junior has “climbed” out of his crib and is lying in a pile on the carpeted floor looking somewhat confused before the tears set in.  You will find that your child does not follow the rules now and probably never will.  He makes new ones for himself.  And this is only the beginning.
So what do you do when you have a baby who doesn’t follow the rules?  You throw away the What to Expect books and listen to your instincts.  You follow your child’s lead.  And you enjoy the ride!