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Is My Baby Laid-Back or Lonely?

At my daughter's one-year checkup, the nurse handed me a questionnaire to fill out about all the skills Em had or had not yet mastered. I went through the pages quickly, marking off "yes," "no," and "sometimes" alongside the appropriate behaviors, my heart soaring with pride and then sinking with anxiety, up and down, up and down, like someone on a roller coaster.

Afterward, the pediatrician noted that Em had passed every section with flying colors—except for the section on gross motor skills. No, she wasn't pulling herself up to stand. No, she wasn't cruising. No, she wasn't walking. Instead, she was perfectly content to just speed-crawl her way from Point A to Point B.

After pointing this out, the pediatrician hastened to reassure us that this was nothing to worry about. He explained that the more mellow a baby is, the less motivated they might feel to start standing and walking. "Babies who are more easygoing typically hit that milestone a little bit later," he said.

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And it made sense to us. Em is one laid-back baby, much like her parents, who order cat litter and diapers online so they don't have to leave the house, and who lay in bed with dry mouths because they are too lazy to go downstairs for more water.

But then this past weekend, we went to a BBQ where there were a bunch of other babies, and she was the only one not walking. Now, two days later, she's suddenly pulling herself up to stand and scaling the stairs and climbing onto shelves like it's no big deal. And this isn't the first time she's made such a developmental leap after socializing with other kids around her age.

She only has a handful of playdates a month. She plays with us in the small snippets of time between work tasks. How the hell is she supposed to learn how to do anything?

It always seems as if Em is one step behind her play dates. They are always more mobile. More aggressive. More vocal. Obviously, this only serves to make me feel like a deadbeat parent.

Of course my child hasn't mastered standing yet. She sits at home, day after day, with two parents who are always hard at work on their computers, butts firmly planted in padded seats. She doesn't go to day care or to mommy and me activities. Instead, she plays by herself, untangling wires or hoisting about old cell phones or ripping apart old magazines. She only has a handful of playdates a month. She plays with us in the small snippets of time between work tasks. How the hell is she supposed to learn how to do anything?

Then someone a year older than her comes over, someone with the ability to convey her own sippy cup to her mouth. And suddenly, Em doesn't need me to cradle her in my arms anymore. She is suddenly capable of sitting up and clasping those sippy-cup handles and bringing the spout to her lips.

Or someone more aggressive and more mobile than her comes over, someone who is several weeks younger than her but who is able to scale her like a mountain and knock her down. And suddenly, she has abandoned her army crawl for full-on speed crawling.

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Or she's at a BBQ, surrounded by children who are running in and out of a ball pit or spinning around the lawn or pulling ride-on toys and xylophones away from her. How is she supposed to compete?

And then suddenly she is pressing her hands into the bottom step of a full set of slate steps and she is standing and she is climbing and she has scaled the entire set of stairs. Like I haven't spent the past two months worrying about her gross motor skills. Like it's something she has always been able to do.

So is my daughter laid-back or lonely? Is she unmotivated or under-socialized? Is it nature or nurture?

Is it a little bit of both?

Image via Stephanie Auteri

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