In almost every well child check, I try to go over with parents their child’s growth percentage (compared to other children of the same age). For many children, I will show parents the growth curve. A growth curve is a line graph that shows a child’s growth over time, so that you can see in a picture how a baby grows really fast in the first few months, and then levels out to less accelerated growth as they get older. Again in puberty, there is usually an acceleration, and then a leveling out.
At times, growth can be in stops and starts. The trajectory is what is important, not necessarily a specific number. If we check a weight on a baby and it seems lower than it should be, but by the next visit, it is back on track, I am not going to be worried about that child. We can cross apply the principle for a lot of aspects of growth and development.
I did not learn to ride a bike until I was 9. I was just one of those scared kids who wouldn’t even try for years (until my little sister learned to ride). My mother would have had to answer “no” to that question on gross motor development. And yet, my gross motor trajectory was good. I could run, jump, climb, bounce a ball, jump rope, etc.
I see this for children in all types of growth. In gross motor movement, in social development, in academic development, we see that children are not linear. In general, children progress at a certain rate, but the absolute number must be taken in context.
I have trouble sometimes seeing my own children’s developmental trajectory. I am in the day-to-day and it takes time to step back far enough to see that “growth curve”. Keeping records can be helpful over time. Keeping up with special books read or taking video at specified holidays and then looking back at how far a child has come over a year can help us to see progress.
The trajectory moves on, and our kids are growing, even on the days when it doesn’t feel like it.
Be flexible, be smart and be patient. You can do this.
Katie Jackson is a pediatrician with Utica Park Clinic Claremore.