Do you have a friend who recently, to your delight or chagrin, became a mother? Does that friend suddenly seem like a whole different person, and not necessarily in a good way? Welcome to a new column, Ask a Mom, which attempts to explain why parents of small children are so weird.
Here’s a stumper: Why the hell does your new mom friend refer to her kid’s age in months? Instead of just saying “he’s two,” why must she describe him as being “26 months”? Is it simply an annoying tic, like those people who make plans via email in 24-hour time?
My daughter is nearly two-and-a-half, but I still sometimes refer to her as 28 months old, especially to other mothers, teachers, and doctors. The reason is simple, and it’s not because I got indoctrinated into some fucked-up counting cult when I gave birth. It’s practical: From month to month, she changes so much that counting in smaller increments is still extremely useful.
For instance, would it be accurate to say my daughter learned to walk when she was one year old? Yes. But it would also be so devoid of specificity as to be useful to no one, since most babies learn to walk around one. So, when my friend with the crawling and cruising baby says, “When did Zelda start walking?” my answer is, “About 13 months.” It’s code for “not too early, not too late.” Will this matter to anyone when she’s five or six? Nope. Does it matter to Zelda now? Not that I can tell. But it helps my friend to make sense of the timeline, to know what to expect.
Here’s a more recent example. My daughter turned two years old in February. At 24 months, she was exceedingly chatty, but about half of what she said was unintelligible. But a month or so later — by the time she was 25 or 26 months — she was spitting out fully formed, seven- or eight-word sentences. Her consonants (with the exception of her much beloved “Y” for “L” substitution, as in, “Yook, Mommy!”) have sorted themselves out, and about 95 percent of the words she says are now fully comprehensible.
The point is that between February and now — just four short months — so many pieces have fallen into place that she’s not, verbally speaking, the same person at all. Four months to a parent and their growing child, is an eternity, developmentally speaking.
Does this make the month-by-month specificity any less annoying to hear? I don’t know! But now at least you can rest assured that we’re not doing it just to be irritating.