Can you keep up?

We are used to comparisons, us parents. Your baby's growth and development is charted by Health Visitors and compared with national expectations. Every play date, every trip to the park, every baby group and every browse on social media provides another opportunity to compare our children with their peers. One baby is rolling over, another is already walking and another sleeps through the night. One toddler is talking in full sentences, another is potty trained and another can climb to the top of the climbing frame. One mum has lost all her baby weight, and another finds time for a weekly date night with her partner.

However strong your resolve, and however high your confidence, it is hard to avoid making these comparisons. It is hard not to worry when our baby seems to be meeting milestones a little slower than those around him, and it is hard not to feel secretly proud and relieved if they are meeting other milestones earlier than their friends - it's human nature, and we are put under pressure as parents by the baby books who tell us what to expect week by week, and the medical professionals who encourage us to rate our own children against their expectations.

Parents feel the pressure of comparison when they bring their children swimming too. Children aren't usually physically coordinated and strong enough to attempt learning the four main strokes until the age of four, which is why we keep those first years of lessons more play based and fun, focussed on propulsion, finding balance in the water and building confidence. But more and more frequently I'm being approached by concerned parents from swim schools who encourage tiny babies and toddlers to be taken through a rigid learn to swim checklist, including ever longer and deeper under water swims. Swimming is such an excellent sport to take part in but learning to swim efficiently and well takes repetition and practice (as does learning to read). You don't want to start teaching repetitive stroke drills when children are still focussed on enjoying the water and building their strength.

Earlier is not better when it comes to independent swimming. It is a wonderful thing to see your baby enjoying the water from a young age, but there is no need to feel under pressure to keep up with other babies - they need to enjoy the water, see their parents enjoying the water and see swimming as an enjoyable part of their day to day life.

So, as parents, we need to resist the urge to compare. No matter how many amazing videos we see of our friends' alphabet reciting toddlers, no matter how many underwater photos we see of our friends' babies on Facebook, we need to resist that comparison and trust our own babies to develop in all areas at a pace that's right for them.

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