My friend Jane’s son was born three months after my own daughter. Now that they are in second grade, you’d hardly notice this age difference at all, but early on, it was hard to believe that would ever be true. When Benjamin was born, Penelope seemed like a giant. When he was a floppy 6-week-old infant, she was 4 and a half months old, well on her way toward being a real, solid, baby.
But then came walking. At a year, like the average kid, Benjamin got up and started toddling around. Not Penelope. By the time he was walking, she was fifteen months old and seemed to show no inclination. It is sometimes easy to ignore the way your children differ from the average, but walking was so visible, so salient. Plus, we saw Benjamin all the time, so it was hard to avoid comparisons.
At Penelope’s 15-month well-child visit, our very practical and pragmatic pediatrician, Dr. Li, told me not to worry that she wasn’t walking. “If she’s not walking by 18 months,” she said, “we’ll call in early intervention. But don’t worry! She’ll figure it out.” I did not have Dr. Li’s relaxed confidence or breadth of experience. I tried to explain to Penelope how to walk; she didn’t care. I tried to provide incentives, which were ineffective. You recall: She was a baby.