“I think there’s something wrong with my daughter.” I looked at the angelic 11-month old playing with some blocks and then back at her mother. “She looks fine to me,” I volunteered. “No, she isn’t,” the mother
assured me. “The baby website says she should be able to stack rings by now and she can’t.”
“Oh,” I said, edging away, looking for an
escape. I could sense what the next question would be. “Can your son do them?” And with that question, my son and I had been unwittingly sucked in to yet another Baby Olympics event. I thought back to our first competition.
The Baby Olympics start in the hospital, even before you’ve had the baby. While you’re waiting for your monthly check up, other expectant parents will come and assess the size of your belly and ask how much your child is moving and kicking. Answers are evaluated and compared with their own recordings and a winner is declared. Soon after you’ve delivered when you’re pacing up and down the corridors trying to pass some wind you bump in to another new mother. After the initial exchange of pleasantries you’re child is competing yet again. “Boy or girl? Birth weight? Height? Latching or not? Have you passed wind yet?”
And of course it doesn’t end there. Every developmental milestone is a potential event. From turning on to their stomachs to crawling, cruising, walking, talking and to switching from bottle to beaker — nothing is deemed as too small or inconsequential.
I’ve learnt that the best way to deal with such situations is to lie. Otherwise be prepared to receive looks of pity (“You mean your two-week old isn’t sleeping through the night yet?”) or an interrogation (“How did you teach your son to say tata? Tell me! Tell me!”).
So of course I lied to this mother of the 11-month old who couldn’t stack rings and said “No.” She sighed in relief and complimented me on my new hair cut before searching for another parent to participate in the day’s next event: Mothers of toddlers who still look five months pregnant. Did I forget to mention there are events for parents too? I can understand the parental need to ascertain that one’s children are developing as they should and would be lying if I said I didn’t have certain anxieties myself.
I remember a phase when I asked any friend/acquaintance/stranger with children how many teeth their kids had. This was because my own nine-month old looked like he might need to be fitted with a set of dentures. The thing is you can’t feign injuries or claim that you don’t want to compete in the Baby Olympics. In fact there’s no escaping it. Unless you’re prepared to live as a recluse and home school your child, participation is compulsory.
Toddler groups and play dates are fertile grounds for hosting events. And now thanks to inventions like Baby Yoga and Baby Maestros, there are just more places to jostle for Gold.
And no, my child cannot do Downward Dog. Can yours?
(this appeared here)