I keep thinking about something I saw on facebook awhile back. A mom friend shared something precocious her daughter had done and got the immediate “Oh, how cute, how old is she now?” response.
“She’s 26 months.”
“Oh! I thought she was two…”
On the one hand, it was hilarious. A little quick math can clear up the confusion easily enough and confirm that a 26-month-old child is, in fact, two years old (two years and two months, to be exact). But it also got me thinking.
Ever since my child was a newborn in my arms, I have run into the idea again and again that the way parents describe their children’s ages is somehow annoying and unnecessary. People ask how old a baby or toddler is and then complain about the answer coming in months (or even weeks).
Why do parents refuse to talk like normal people? Do parents consider their offspring so special that everyone needs to know exactly how many days, hours, and minutes, since their birth? Do they want to force everyone else to do math? What’s wrong with “he’s one” or “she’s two?” Are parents just plain being mean? Even my own wife preferred to call our toddler “almost two” when he was 23 months.
The consensus among non-parents (and some parents, too) seems to be that stating a child’s age in months is overly precious, utterly ridiculous, and hard to understand. It would seem that after six months, our kids’ ages can only appropriately be measured in half-years, but preferably only in years.
Excuse me, but I have learned a few things in the last 31 months of my life (oh yeah, I went there), and those people are wrong.
Go ahead, talk about your child’s age in months. Measure their time on this earth in months for the next 16 years for all I care. Everyone has a calculator in their pocket nowadays, so if people don’t like it, they can easily divide by 12 to reach a more palatable number.
Because look, you are the parent, and you know very well how precious every grouping of 30 or 31 days truly is. I don’t only mean that sentimentally. Practically, young children do not grow up birthday to birthday. They change more quickly than that.
I have been hearing about “the terrible twos” since I was two, but the truth is that a two-year-old is not a thing. On my kid’s second birthday, he was one kind of child, at one point in his development. Three months later, he was someone almost entirely different.
The stages of development don’t care about calendar years. They happen in quick succession, and some things change every single day. A 25-month-old child has very little in common with a 34-month-old child, even though there are plenty of people who would like you to pretend they’re the same age.
While it is true that differences of a few months do lessen with age, they don’t exactly just go away, either. In his book, “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell outlined a phenomena that I expect parents have been aware of for a very long time. Children who start school at a later age than their peers, even when everyone in the class is within one year of age, have an advantage.
So, a kindergartener who’s a little closer to six has had more time to master skills, develop mentally and emotionally, and just plain get bigger than a child who is only five years and one month. (That’s 61 months, in case you are curious.)
So please, parents of toddlers, I implore you, stop yielding to the pressure to measure your kids only in rotations of earth around sun. We know our kids. We know that 27 months is sometimes the more accurate thing to say. When people ask other questions, they expect accuracy. When they ask how old our children are, let’s also give them accuracy.
Plus, if the other person also happens to be a toddler parent, you might get a wistful “Oh, 27! I remember 27. That was a sweet month.”