Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Is walking backwards a milestone or a disorder?

One way to evaluate Gianluca at one year is to count up all the things he’s not doing yet: not talking meaningfully, not pointing, not waving bye-bye, not walking independently. You could look at my son that way--and pediatricians have to--but you would be missing everything. You wouldn’t see him speed-crawl to and up the stairs whenever the gate comes down. You wouldn’t see him wrestle with his brother until their belly laughs bring tears to my eyes. You’d miss out on Danger Baby, who can home in on the most dangerous item or activity available to him and bee-line for it. How would you know that he can find a missing pacifier his parents have torn the house apart looking for? But baby doctors don’t ask those questions. They want to know if he is walking backwards and how many wet diapers he has a day. They don’t care that he is ticklish in the small of his back or that he is so proud when he takes half a dozen steps while I am watching. Instead, his pediatrician labeled him “cautious” because he didn’t pounce on a proffered toy.

This is neither my first rodeo nor my first pony, so the list of things he isn’t doing doesn’t worry me. Gianluca is not behind, delayed, or stupid, and a stack of arbitrary questions cannot qualify his intelligence. There is no measure for the spark in his eyes or the joy in his smile. If there were, pediatricians wouldn’t have to ask any questions at all. They would just look at him, just be in his company for five minutes, and congratulate me on having such an amazing boy.

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