No Baby is an island. She cannot grow in isolation.

At birth her small computer has been programmed with the ability to progress – walking, talking, and understanding: it takes a severe breakdown in the mechanism to interrupt this pattern of what we call ‘normal’ development.

But it is environment that launches the baby into the deep and delightful waters of living – and you are the chartmasters here, providing the compass, marking the reefs: you are the lodestar of your child’s development in the early years. It takes a genius, of course, to bring up a baby, but then that’s what parents are. Although it’s the parent who is the expert on his own child, acquired knowledge will also guide and help – and this is where the experts come in.

Few subjects have been so studied today as child development. Does that make today’s parents lucky or unlucky? Will they end up totally confused by conflicting ‘expert’ opinions, hoping from one theory to another as yet a further page of research is turned and yesterday’s gospel becomes today’s mistake?

It is a question that bewilders parents more than researchers who are sleeping soundly through the night while mothers and fathers are turning up the index in the latest baby book; How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through The Night. Charity tends to be at a low ebb at three in the morning, so you’ll be forgiven for wishing the author raucous triplets.

But however much it may disconcert you when your baby does not conform to what the book says; the underlying principles of developmental behaviour are constant. They are the train lines. Admittedly your baby may be a bus taking odd little detours down lanes where the view seems more pleasant, marking time at corners and then speeding full ahead on the wrong stretch of road with you in agitated pursuit.

It helps to remember that a baby is a human. That means possessing all the inconsistencies, preferences and frailties which make a human being, and also all the glories, talents and potential. If the glories seem a little thin when you are picking up his favourite toy from the cot side for the seventeenth time or masticating a grey pastry jam tart ‘cooked’ by your three year old, take heart; as the politicians say, you are doing a splendid job.

But knowing how you are doing a splendid job does help with the eighteenth knee bend to pick up that toy, and this is where the experts’ knowledge is invaluable. Knowing the general pattern and principles of your baby’s development is like having a guide-rail over a precipice: you can hang on while you admire the view.

Although it is practical to write about different areas of development in separate sections – seeing, moving, and talking – it is obvious that your baby won’t grow like that in a series of isolated steps. Each area of growth affects another in a shifting pattern of development. Sometimes growth in one area supports growth in another. Sometimes there is a slowing down in one skill while there is a spurt in another and then again you will find a baby who progresses steadily and calmly in a near-textbook pattern.

It's not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  ~Joyce Maynard
It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. ~Joyce Maynard

Nature has artfully loaded the dice. Just as it seems life is all broken nights and feeding, your baby will stare at you for a long, considering moment and – deliberately and devastatingly – smile. When you are worn out with carrying her about she will begin to walk along the long toddler trail to maturity. Nature has prepared this series of apple-rewards to lure you onwards. And while you respond with delight to her achievements, your baby is stimulated by your encouragement to further efforts. Love is a two-way business and growing up has been cleverly designed.

A baby learns through her senses but does not learn through one sense at a time. She sees a red book is different from a blue book but won’t be able to tell you about it: language has yet to catch up with sight. But in time all these boundaries and barriers will blur and the landscape merge into a whole. Seeing, hearing, understanding, talking and loving, your child will stand at the frontiers while all before her stretches the unexplored land we call living.

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Comments 3 comments

melliesmother 4 years ago

As a new mother it helps to calm down. Too often we're set against so called perfect mother's and realising that you don't add up can be really devastating. This is sensible advise so I'll be reading more of your hubs.

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JanTutor 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for the thumbs up - I was motivated to write this after watching a neighbours' meltdown because she could not live up to the ideal. A beautiful, intelligent, high-flyer sank under the weight of expectation. I happily kept the yummy mummies at bay. My husband said I growled at one woman (grrrrrrrrr) and started talking to myself when I happen upon another with her perfect life and washboard abs. Do I apologise? Hell no!

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teaches12345 4 years ago

Child development is an area that helps to understand how a child thinks and grows. Parents who know the different stages benefit from being able to help their child develop strong traits and skills to make life full. Wonderfully written and so useful to parents.

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