Some of the best advice I ever read regarding infant care was, “don’t participate in the developmental *lympics.” And, no, I’m not going to type that word in full out of fear that the IOC will send me a cease and desist court order. Following that advice, however, is easier said than done. Especially when the grandparents phone.
Okay, not just any grandparent, specifically my Father-in-law (FIL). He just desperately wants something to brag about so every time he phones we have to hear all about every other baby he’s even remotely related to. Yep. Not only his granddaughter (our niece) who is a few months younger than our son, but the infants of distant cousins, and the infants of distant cousins of distant cousins. While I do admire the importance he places on family, I think that might be going a little too far. Anyway, after we get the run down on all the other babies, we are subject to an interrogation.
That’s right, it’s a baby heptathlon and my FIL is the sole judge. The heptathlon is made up of the following events:
1) weight. No points for us here. We are smoothly following the 10th percentile curve. Pretty much every baby we know is heavier – even our niece who is 5 months younger. While we get to save money by getting more use out of our infant car seat, that is not exactly the sort of informative tidbit that gives my FIL bragging rights. So no points.
2) length. Again, we don’t score any points as we are firmly below average in this category too.
3) gross motor skills. These points are awarded on an all or nothing basis, no extra points for style. The interrogation goes as follows:
is he standing? No? What about pulling up? No? Surely he must be crawling. No? Well, why not? You know your second cousin once removed’s kid? He’s walking and he’s only two weeks older.
again, no points.
4) sleeping through the night. We used to be first in this category, however, since all babies are pretty much sleeping through the night midway through their first year, I’m pretty sure that all our points were deducted when we hit 9 months of age.
5) eating solids. This category is firmly scored on quantity. Baby-led-weaning is not helping us here. Not when my SIL buys some kind of fancy bourgeois baby food in a tube via mail order and squirts it directly into her daughter’s mouth. Vast quantities of this stuff, which I’m sure has excellent profit margins, is consumed, leading to first place finishes in the eating, weight and height categories. I’ve filed an appeal because I think this constitutes doping.
6) language. Babbling scores you points. but since the sole judge can’t distinguish between an 11 month baby that occasionally babbles (many different noises) and a 6 month baby that sits on the floor and continually screams like a pterodactyl, somehow we lose this category too. Expressive language is scored. Receptive language, for some reason is ignored.
7) happiness. Babies are scored on their ability to giggle and smile and not scream like a banshee when people they don’t know well (um…like grandparents that live in a different city??????) pick them up. It doesn’t matter to the judge that this is entirely dependent on developmental age.
Other events where we might manage to get on the scoreboard like, for example, fine motor skills, or receptive language or socialization are curiously missing from the baby heptathlon. My son will point to a picture in a book, turn and look at me and say “ah-goo?” until I say, “that’s a duck” whereupon he smiles and claps and points to hear, “duck,” again. It’s completely charming but scores no points. Similarly, his ability to follow simple commands like, “put the block in the box,” or play games like peek-a-boo and patty cake don’t seem to score any grandparent bragging rights. Not sure why, but then I’m never too sure how *lympic events are judged either.
Next year, I think we’ll compete in the baby decathlon. I think we’d have a stronger chance of a top-ten finish. We don’t have any realistic chance at a medal…not without a few disqualifications….hello!!….tube food = doping!