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Baby Races: A Weird Obsession with Comparing Milestones

Dear Random Lady at the YMCA,

You eyed my baby from the moment we stepped out of the locker room entering the pool area. You were swimming laps and smiled at my son, mouthing the words “he’s so cute.” I naively thought this would be the end of our encounter. I was wrong. Shortly after my middle boy eased his way into the cold pool, and the baby and I settled on the bench to watch him practice; you approached with a smile. I obviously smiled back, but you had something else in mind aside from a friendly conversation. You wanted to play the baby race game, and before I could process what was happening, the race had already started.

“Oh, your baby is so cute! How old is he?” You questioned, wide smile and warm eyes. I replied telling you he’s 13 months. “He’s so small.” You tell me, looking concerned almost. Now, here is where I tell you that my child is not small. I don’t tell her this, but I’m telling you dear reader, because it goes with my point. My son is by no means the largest baby in the world, but he’s also not small for his age. In fact at his 12 month check up the doctor commented that his stats were that of an average 18 month old, and inquired if my husband was a large man. I laughed internally because my husband is nearly two inches shorter than I am.

Anyway, Becky, the pool mom didn’t have this information and I didn’t divulge. I simply said “You think so?” That was the wrong response. I got to hear all about her giant children that were both close to 12lbs when they were born. She droned on and on about her infant Lebron James who is three months old wearing nine month clothes. As you talked I smiled vacantly trying to find a way out of this conversation without jumping into the pool fully clothed with a toddler on my hip. So, I pulled out my phone. Rude I know, but when you saw me pull up Instagram you instantly went away. It was like magic, and I’m not sorry.

This encounter got me to thinking. Why do parents do this? Why do we pit our children against each other? Our kids are just trying to develop at their own pace and here we are trying to force the notion that our baby is somehow superior to someone else’s child. I know I have been guilty of participating in baby races. I’m sure I’ve sounded just as annoying as Becky the pool mom. I try my best to no longer compare children, unless it’s a legitimate development question.

Our children do not need to be compared. They just don’t. Children are in their own race by themselves. Did you know that some babies get teeth at four months, while other’s don’t get any until they are over a year? Or that some babies scoot and then go straight to walking by nine months, while other’s don’t walk until eighteen months? Did you know that these are all normal ranges for them to do these things? Let children develop at the pace that THEY are supposed to develop. If your child was 6lbs at birth, don’t expect it to wear nine month clothes when they are three months. If your child is happy and thriving, keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let Becky the pool mom make you feel badly about where your child is physically or developmentally. If you have any real concerns, or someone points out something that concerns you, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Dr. Let’s Compare Cathy is not an MD and likely not a child development expert. Go with your gut and ignore the noise.



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