I rarely mention milestones in my newsletters, which may be puzzling to some of you who have children or work with them. Milestones are checkpoints in a child’s development: taking the first step, using the toilet for the first time, saying the first word. They signpost a child’s path towards independence. They also create a roadmap that parents can use “to ward off uncertainty when faced with the great unknown, offering a sense of predictability and control – even if that is a false sense,” as my friend and colleague Lynn Berger, a member of this community, noted when she edited this story.
I understand that milestones are necessary. But I don’t like to talk about them because they involve standards against which parents end up measuring themselves and their children. Because they suggest there is one norm, or reality, that applies to all.
But there are so many realities. Think of a deaf child, for example, like Libby of the Oscar-winning film The Silent Child (see my recommendation below for more). Or think of a premature baby who will force her parents to throw any expected schedule out the window. Of course, keeping a milestone in mind can be incredibly useful for identifying potential problems early so that children (and parents) can receive adequate support. For Libby, the film’s fictional character, that support comes in the form of a person who can teach her sign language to communicate with the rest of the world.
But milestones can also create a lot of anxiety – especially if a child is born with a disability, and carers are more worried than most about their child’s prospects and their path to independence. “If your baby has a visual impairment, these milestones may sometimes seem like boulders to you, especially if your friend’s baby has accomplished something that your baby has not. Try to keep things in perspective,”