“The question” begins as early as 6 months and, at that time, is charming and innocent.
“The question” is the ever popular inquiry about developmental stages asked to parents by their parents, friends, neighbors, people they meet in the park and some random woman in the supermarket. Currently, my son is 10 months old and when I am asked whether he is crawling or walking, I start to feel the same annoying twitch I got when people asked when I was getting pregnant.
When I tell people he is not crawling, they give me a pitying look and start making excuses or change the topic. “Oh, well…don’t worry, he will crawl really soon, I’m sure.” Thanks, I wasn’t worried. I have only the utmost sympathy for those parents with 17-month-old children who are not walking. I can only imagine the visceral feeling “the question” must elicit for them.
There are many reasons why people ask “the question.” Some reasons are: it’s a common baby thing everyone knows about; it’s the next stage after sitting up; it’s something people get excited about; it’s what you ask when you can’t think of anything else. These are all perfectly normal reasons. However, after hearing “the question” repeatedly, all you hear when someone asks is: “Why isn’t your baby crawling yet?” “My friend’s grandson is crawling already.” “You really should talk to your doctor about that.” “You must have slacked on tummy time.”
These developmental milestones cause so much stress for parents when their happy baby is perfectly content never crawling and not walking until 17 months. The baby’s development is not the problem – our society is. “Should I be worried my baby isn’t crawling” yielded about 19,800,000 results on Google. It is really difficult not to feel worried, concerned and anxious when your child is not doing things another child is doing. But think of the things your child is doing that another child may not be. Each child has individual personality traits and abilities and will learn to do things when it is right for them. Your baby is crawling, my baby has great hand coordination, another baby may babble constantly and another baby has great dexterity.
I have a friend whose doctor recommended physical therapy when their daughter was not crawling by 9 months and another friend whose doctor recommended PT when their son was not walking by 15 months. If your doctor is worried about it, then you should most definitely be concerned, right? Wrong. Plenty of babies never crawl. Plenty of toddlers walk at 18 months or even later.
Barring physical impairment, every kid walks, eventually. I know people say as a joke, “No one crawls to Kindergarten,” but really, no one crawls to Kindergarten! And when you child learns to walk, you sometimes wish she took longer because now your only job in life is to chase her around, making sure she doesn’t climb stairs without supervision or stick her hands in a socket.
If you are concerned and want to do physical therapy for your baby, there is nothing wrong with that. Following doctor’s suggestions may ease anxiety and some extra help may speed up your baby’s process, but it also may not. You are awarded with the responsibility to make those decisions. Parenting has become that much more challenging with the overload of information on the Internet and everyone posting pictures and videos on Facebook, but it is important not to get caught up in what every article says your child “should” be doing and to keep perspective when your doctor makes a suggestion.
Sometimes there is cause for concern and it is important to be diligent about taking the appropriate steps, but not freaking out is equally important. Children develop at their own pace; they develop exactly the way they are supposed to and when my son feels like crawling, he will, and I will be sure to inform everyone in the supermarket.
Jill Ceder, LMSW JD, is a former lawyer turned social worker interested in maternal and infant mental health as well as parent education and support. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son. She writes for The World of Psychology blog. You can also find her at www.jillceder.com and on Twitter.
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