I went out on a playdate this week with a friend and her son. Although they are a few months apart, they are at similar stages, and it was really cute to watch them playing together. By together, I mean in the same room, as babies of this age seem to entirely ignore each other as much as possible. But still, cute.
Our boys are on different sides of a year and a half, and until recently, neither had shown any interest in walking. Given that this is not late and not early, certainly for me the difficulty of a still crawling child was more in how heavy he is to lug everywhere, and the necessity to take a buggy or a husband with for even the quickest and easiest of trips.
However, while we were out, another mother, standing nearby and observing our lightning fast crawlers, asked how old our kids were. Upon hearing our answer, she replied “Gosh, all these late walkers!”
Er.. Do you want a slap?
At the time, I settled for walking away, mentally adding another face to my “Wow I don’t like you” list. Today, it’s progressed to annoyance and the need to vent. Ok, so your kid walked at 13 months, well done you. It doesnt make you a better mother, and it doesnt make your kid any cleverer. It doesnt mean anything at all in fact.
A statement like that, however innocently meant, can only serve to make another parent worried about their own childs development, and especially in a situation like ours, entirely pointlessly. 18 months give or take, is not a ‘late walker.’ We all worry enough about our kids and the milestones they are hitting. Is this too early? Is this too late? Are they doing things well enough or quickly enough? What we need from other mums, is support. And often sympathy.
How strange that if she had said “Gosh, he must be getting heavy!” The same message would have come across but I would not be annoyed at all. Rather than hear a self-congratulatory jibe at my son, (who is clearly wearing glasses, so clearly would have some delay anyway) I would have heard another mother empathising with me and engaging me in normal mummy chit-chat.
In any area of life, the things we say to one another are so important. Language creates reality. What we say to others gives them a new outlook on what is actually happening and what they are dealing with. You comfort a person, things actually become better for them in their eyes. You argue and lash out, and a new truth settles in a friends mind. If this is true of any situation, then how much more so when we are talking about our children-the most precious things in our lives, and possibly where we need the most reassurance? Yesterday, R became for that second a “late walker”, a baby who wasnt as quick as another, or as capable. I dismissed it, and chose to instead focus on disliking the speaker, but a different person could have walked away worried and concerned.
When I became a mother, I automatically joined this special group made up of parents.Even without an introduction, we can smile at each other across a coffee shop, strike up conversation on a bus ride, and give advice to each other about all manner of topics. Without being in this club, and enjoying the support it brings, the last 16 months would have been nearly impossible. Being a part of this group is therefore a priviledge. Why abuse it?