Is how much less you care about proposed milestones.
I remember the weekly updates with my first pregnancy, following along so intently the emails that came through matching the growth of my baby to variously size fruit. He was lime, then apple, a melon, then a watermelon, and then a little before I was ready, fast asleep in a baby blue thermal tucked in the hallow crook of my arm.
I followed along afterwards too, reading about what regular advances you could expect to arrive with each new passing month. Arlo not only met them all he surpassed them so fast I started reading ahead to see what to expect from an 24 month old, on my 15 month old who could hold feasible conversations, wack a baseball with a vengence, and knew the names and sounds of just about every domestic animal in the books upon his shelf. To this day he's the same way. He sits for his first lesson in guitar and pulls of a new rift without a fumble. He bowls with strikes and can carve wood with the same skills it took his father a couple of years to perfect.
Then came Leon. Who showed me what it felt like stranded on the other end. Where suddenly I felt myself dreading the updates because they only helped highlight the fact of his weight and height hung around off the charts, as well as underlining proof of his considerable delay. Gross motor being of most concern. They ran tests, they tossed around diagnosis and hired a nice woman to visit our house once a week hoping to motivate him into moving. So that when he did finally roll over at 7 and a half months, and not 8 weeks like "most," my joy came shadowed by a slight sense of defeat. Never realizing how much all the worry would steal from me and my overall experience as a mother those first two years. Even with all the help and therapy, Leon wouldn't walk until 23 months. Not 10 Like Arlo, or 14 like Rex. Or 12 like the books and updates deemed typical.
Fourth time around I didn't sign up for the emails because I knew by heart the size of the produce I could compare the growing child in my womb to. And because I knew no matter what 96 percent of the other infant population was doing, babies blossom on their own time. Of their own ability and accord. "Don't worry, don't compare. They're all so different" an old women in the Toy's R Us parking lot would say to me on a particularly low week, having sensed my lingering discontent in our conversation about him not walking. Of which I think about quite often. Seeing how truly right she was.
Fast forward seven years down the road and he stands at the top of his class, reading and writing like a champ, with friends around every corner and I can hardly recall those days when it felt like every move he made came measured by the light of such silly statistics, and pointless comparisons. There was no "reason" they ever uncovered for his delays. Except that he's was Leon then just as he is Leon now. Overly cautious, underly competitive. With the type of innate kindness that can't be charted or compared.
Hayes is now 19 months and hardly talking. People comment, asking how come he doesn't speak. When I think back to Arlo at his age I smile to consider how unsettling it was to have such an advanced infant pave the way for all the rest. Hayes doesn't talk much because he doesn't have to. Or maybe he just isn't ready. So he grunts and yells, points and nods and has the great luxury of three willing boys there to cater to all of these ragged tongued, caveman expressions. At times he's a rosey cheeked mime silently acting out requests with good will & humor. Other times livid. Furious over our apparent confusion in his communication efforts, with a short fuse and a sharp temper errupting tantrums that come as a result, proving nothing short of plain catastrophe in public.
And yet we are all there for him when he points high as he can up at at that big black sky every night as I pull him out of the car, showing us a silver slice of the moon he loves so much. One of the few words he can say. A shiny sliver in the sky he wants to share with us. "Moo!" he says over and over looking at each of us in complete awe of that bright spot that he finds every evening. With a smile because he knows he's close. And that we understand and see it's inexlpicalbe beauty, the exact same way.
As for all the animals, we're not there yet. But I know by now they'll all come around in good time.