I love mom talk. Parenthood can be so overwhelming that I truly love being able to confide in and commiserate with a fellow mama. Usually, these conversations develop seamlessly. And why wouldn’t they? With so many shared experiences, it’s only natural. Every once in a while though, a topic pops up that makes me want to roll my eyes so hard my own mother would call me and tell me to knock it off. I swear, I’m a nice person at heart so it can be a struggle to hide it because I really don’t want to make you uncomfortable. But, if you want the truth, here’s what I’m really thinking:
1.) First Steps
Disclaimer: I will almost always take your assertion that your kid started walking at 8 months old with a grain of salt. You’re lucky if it doesn’t earn an outright eye roll. Does it happen? Obviously. But what does that even mean?
Look, I know there are some kids that magically wake up one day and decide they are going to take their first steps, literally, into toddlerhood. My daughter was one. She was 13 months old and just ran out of the church following her baptism. Had she suddenly been blessed with the gift of mobility or did the overwhelming scent of incense force those little legs into overdrive? I guess we’ll never know.
My son, however, moved in incremental steps – almost painfully slow. He was cruising furniture for a good 4 months before taking controlled steps on his own. And that’s the thing. When is it considered actually walking? My take: don’t jump the gun.
Milestones, especially ones as major as walking, are a process. They take time. If your kid took a step toward a distracting toy once at 7 months, it’s probably safe to say he wasn’t actually walking. But the bigger point is, why is this even a conversation? Unless your kid is walking “late” and you want some reassurance, what’s the point of bragging about the fact that he was walking a few weeks before someone else’s? What do you want from me?? “Congrats! He’s obviously destined to be an Olympian!” (….cue aforementioned eye roll)
2.) First Words
I know it’s super exciting when your babbling baby finally utters something intelligible. “Oh my goodness!” you think, “He’s still so young! I wonder when Einstein started talking. He must be a genius!” Spoiler: Einstein didn’t talk until he was four and your kid probably didn’t say anything.
As babies acquire language, they babble and experiment with sounds and syllables all the time. You wouldn’t be riding the crazy train if it seemed as if he was saying “mama” without connecting it to the fact that you are, in fact, his mother.
I’m not trying to be a party pooper but resist the urge to spread confetti from the rafters the very first time something comes out of your baby’s mouth that could potentially be found in the dictionary. It takes some time and lots of repetition before it’s clear your kid is speaking with intent.
I understand the thrill of seeing what was once a drooling, blubbering blob turn into a sentient little person. And I will never put a damper on that joy in front of you. I promise. Just… you know… remember that your baby’s first words are in no way a reflection of you or indicative of his future Ivy League prospects. Kick back with a glass of wine and maybe reconsider before blasting all over Facebook that your 4 month old said, “potato.” Don’t hate me but… I don’t believe you.
3.) Percentile Charts
Ok, I admit it. Once upon a time, I would give myself a little pat on the back when my daughter would leave a well-baby appointment scoring high on the height and weight charts. Coming from short stock, it was always surprising and maybe fluffed my ego a bit. Seeing your baby grow is such a miracle and you really should be proud of yourself for taking such good care of your bambino. BUT those conversations, unless discussed with family and close friends, are largely unproductive.
Like I said, I, too, once swelled with pride when I could announce my kid was 85% for height and weight – or whatever it was. It was like the CDC was awarding me a silent medal for all the hard mommy work I was doing. It felt awesome. These days? If you offer up that information un-prodded, I will probably smile and nod politely while mentally shooting daggers through my eyes. I can’t help it. It’s totally reflexive at this point.
You see, my second kiddo has never gotten along well with those charts. Despite working a million times harder to keep him fed and healthy than I ever did with my first, he has always struggled to maintain or add weight. When your baby is labeled as “Failure to Thrive” it feels like you’ve been punched in the gut for a lot of reasons, but in no small part because those charts really do seem like a parental report card. And I failed. Repeatedly. Miserably. In fact, I’m still failing… or maybe in “D” range now.
So if you are a stranger who uses me to feed your own sense of self worth in this way, there probably won’t be any playdates in the near future.
4.) Sleeping through the Night
I don’t understand this conversation. It boggles my mind that people have concrete answers for this. I don’t know if they’re all lying or if my kids just hate me but, in my world, there is no such thing as sleeping through the night.
Kid #1: Slept through the night starting at 6 weeks but stopped abruptly at 6 months. The next 6 months were an endless cycle of teeth, milestones, and occasional colds that left me tired and grumpy. And she’s been cyclical ever since. She might sleep well for a long period of time and then suddenly wake up every night for weeks. And don’t even get me started on the night terrors. She’s 4 and it’s still an ongoing process.
Kid #2: Sleep ninja extraordinaire. He evaded sleep with masterful skill forever. I swear to God, this child woke up every hour (if I was lucky) for the first 9 months of his life. Naps were an impossible dream. I hallucinated. He laughed at me. Well, maybe. Not sure if that was a hallucination, too. At around 18 months he finally started sleeping through the night with some consistency. And by that I mean he wakes up at night probably 3-4 times a week. 50% is consistent, right? RIGHT?!
I promise, as your friend, I will resist my urge to laugh in your face when you tell me that your kid has slept through the night reliably since birth…. if you bring me a venti white hot mocha and tell me I’m pretty first.
5.) Parenting Style
This topic always weirds me out. Why would you ask me what my parenting style is? My brain.does not.compute. I mean, logically, I understand what you are saying… there are all kinds of parenting philosophies and some of us may naturally fall into one category more than another but I seriously don’t understand the need to put a label on it. If I had to? Perhaps, “Um… I don’t know. Raising a Genuinely Kind Person Using My Own Common Sense.” That probably needs to be whittled down but you get the idea.
Raising kids is important work and I don’t blame you for taking it so seriously but it’s an art form, not a science project. If you try to have this conversation with me, I’m liable to shift uncomfortably and awkwardly redirect the topic. It’s like you’re actively making a judgment about my potential value as a friend and it instantly creeps me out. I don’t need to be recruited into a particular philosophy to be confident in my parenting, but thanks.
I’m not saying I won’t have these conversations with you. I’m just saying my brain starts malfunctioning and I may develop a twitch in one eye. It’s like the normal rules of social engagement fall away and I’m a full grown feral child. I just don’t know how to discuss this stuff. It might be painfully obvious that your commentary bothers me, even if I wish it wasn’t. I always try to be polite but some people make it so damn difficult. It’s possible that’s just years of sleep deprivation and unwashed hair talking though. I’ll let you know if I ever get to consistently sleep through the night again.
**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.