I’m writing this post from a dual perspective: as a parent and as a healthcare professional. It is inspired by a tweet from @AutismScenes that appeared in my Twitter feed several weeks ago, a tweet about “the gap” and the intense feelings that gap often evokes.
The gap in question is that difference between the developmental accomplishments of one child compared to those of any, or all, other children considered to be its peers – and it starts in utero.
Speaking as a healthcare provider, these comparisons can be very beneficial when we make our assessments of little Camille’s growth and development. Gaps at this stage may serve as a red flag for something we should monitor, or it could be nothing to worry about. Expectant moms who present for their obstetrical visits may hear terms like SGA or LGA (small for gestational age / large for gestational age). The fetus could be perfectly normal for that particular pregnancy, but the flags prompt us to look a bit deeper and rule out things like intrauterine growth retardation or gestational diabetes.
From a parental perspective, moms-to-be compare how hard little Joey kicks, “I think he’s trying out for the NFL!” And then it progresses to the newborn nursery where dads surreptitiously cast a glance around to size up the competition. “Wow, that’s quite a boy you got there,” says Papa of 7 pounds 2 ounces to Papa of 9 pounds 11 ounces.
And then the parents show up for that milestone first Well-Baby visit and the waiting room is abuzz with, “My Tammie sleeps through the night already!” And the slightly deflated reply of, “Really? My Susie still wakes up every three hours.”
It doesn’t stop there. You feel for the dad who showed up at the park with his son for play group and has just been questioned by one of the moms, “Bobby hasn’t started walking yet? What a shame. My Theodore started walking weeks ago. Isn’t Bobby two weeks older than my little cruiser?”
In fact, it NEVER stops. It is an innate part of the human culture to compare and contrast and compete. “You’re telling me your Gina hasn’t given you any grandkids yet? What’s she waiting for? My Betsy is pregnant with our third already!”