Care and Feeding

My Baby’s Day Care Is Stressing Me Out About Her Developmental Milestones

Am I overreacting to these daily reports?

Skeptical mother holding baby and note.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by monkeybusinessimages/ iStock / Getty Images Plus, fizkes/ iStock / Getty Images Plus, and AaronAmat/ iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a first-time mom who has struggled a bit with postpartum anxiety since my return to work a couple of months ago. I am seeing a therapist and doing much better. My husband and I have a 6-month-old daughter who is amazing and doing really well, per her doctor. She is smiley and happy and we love her so much.

She is in a day care center four days a week that for the most part seems to be going well. However, they provide daily notes about when she ate, slept, etc., which include comments that she had a “tough day with floor play,” and they have said in the past that she is “needy.” This seems crazy to me—she is a baby! Also, she often plays on the floor at home, and while she does not love being on her tummy, she is able to roll on her back and play with us or on her own.

The day care recently sent home a two-page 8-to-12-month developmental checklist (keep in mind our daughter is 6 months old) with everything indicated as “No” for my daughter with a note saying that if floor play is not encouraged at home, we may possibly need early intervention so she can reach her important milestones.

I was so upset I burst into tears. I do not understand why they just left this for me to find rather than discussing it with me. Also, her doctor and I don’t have concerns about her development, but now I am worried they are judging us each day. This does not feel like we are on a team in raising my daughter. What can I say to them to improve the situation? Is this crazy or am I doing something wrong? Is it normal to receive this type of feedback?

—6 Months Old!

Dear 6 Months Old!

This is not normal. Listen to your doctor. If the providers bring up the stupid checklist I would simply say, “My pediatrician is monitoring her development and we have no concerns at this time.”

I would also consider switching my baby to a different day care situation, if possible, but that’s a logistical nightmare and they’re certainly not neglecting your baby. (Indeed, they seem to be watching her constantly and noting, “Doesn’t yet write in cursive.”)

For the record, doctors are not magic wizards, and there are plenty of day care providers who are the first to notice something out of the norm, as they see your child daily and have a lot of peers to compare them with. Their observations can be invaluable. In your case, however, they seem extremely revved up for no apparent reason.

Bring the notes and the developmental chart to your next visit to your pediatrician, and they will be able to tell you what’s what. I’m so glad you’re working with a therapist for your PPA, and please make sure you talk to them about this situation, which is (of course!) setting off all your anxiety alarms at once!

Congratulations on your smiley, beautiful girl.

Dear Care and Feeding,

About a year ago, my son, then 2½, was having a very hard time staying in bed. He would get up after multiple attempts to put him down, then get up multiple times during the night, and then ultimately wake up around 5 a.m. We tried lots of different things—leaving the door open, leaving the door closed, silently walking him back to bed, a “toddler alarm clock,” etc., but nothing seemed to help. Among those methods was telling him that if he stayed in bed all night, he could have a piece of chocolate in the morning. (I know, I know, but we were desperate!) The chocolate bribe helped a bit, but it was still pretty rare that he could do it.

Then suddenly, about a month ago, he magically stopped getting up in the middle of the night, and started staying in bed until his clock said it was time to get up. We were thrilled (and he was very proud of himself) but the problem is that now we’re giving him a piece of chocolate basically every morning! How do we get out of this? Set his clock later? Bribe him with something else? Tell him the world ran out of chocolate? Help!

—Too Much Chocolate

Dear Too Much Chocolate,

Eh. Chocolate’s fine, and the morning is actually the best time for it, as long as you brush his teeth after. If you stick to only bribing him for this one thing, and this doesn’t become a shakedown whenever he’d rather not have his nose wiped or use the potty, I think staying the course is fine. (Offer to swap for stickers, though.)

Going forward, build in a time limit when you promise a kid something. Otherwise you’ll be driving to his college with a bag of Hershey’s Kisses every week. Kids never forget a bribe.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

This is more adjacent to a parenting question than an actual parenting question—but I would appreciate a parent’s take.

My mother would love to be a grandmother. At the top of my list of reasons to have children is that she would be an awesome grandmother. Unfortunately, the list is otherwise very short. There are no objective reasons why my partner and I shouldn’t have children (we’re comfortably off, relatively young, fertile as far as we know)—we simply don’t want them. Of course that may change, but it doesn’t seem likely.

I am an only child, so this means that my mother isn’t likely to ever be a grandmother. She tries to hide it, but I know this makes her unhappy. Is there anything I can do—short of getting pregnant—to make this any easier on her?

—Sorry, but No

Dear SbN,

You’re a very thoughtful daughter. Your mother also appears to be conducting herself respectfully (she’s not trying to push your boundaries or talk you out of your decision, just quietly having her own feelings of loss) and that’s already putting her in the top 5 percent of people who are told their adult children don’t plan on kids. So essentially, you have the benefit of going through this with an intact, healthy emotional relationship with your mother. That’s invaluable!

I would focus on keeping that relationship warm, close, and rewarding. A lot of the sorrow she’s feeling is probably based around the sense of loss of that potential connection to the future, so work on her connection with you, whether that be an extra call or two a week, an extra visit, a weekly lunch if she’s local, etc. Don’t feel like you have to go over the top with it, as that would feel artificial to both of you. You just want to make sure she knows that you love her and that your love and connection are legacies by themselves, and ones to be cherished. Also, consider encouraging her to look into opportunities in your community to volunteer with kids; there are a ton of programs where she can use her grandmotherly gifts for good, and a lot of kids who need them.

Something I want to be clear on is this: Any momentary waffling or “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a baby” thoughts that you and your husband have should never be shared with your mother. It sounds like right now she’s accepted that you’re not having children, and unless you actually change your mind, it would be much harder for her to get her hopes up and then dashed periodically. You don’t strike me as the sort of person who would do that, but many people read this column and it will likely be useful information for someone!

The last thing I want to say is to accept that you’re not responsible for your mother’s happiness. I applaud what you’re hoping to do, and I think it’s very admirable, but don’t get stuck in a place where you’re desperately trying to “make things up to her” in a situation for which you bear no fault.

Best of luck (to both of you)!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 3-year-old is the slowest eater on the planet. She has always been a bit underweight, and we did some testing for celiac and cystic fibrosis when she was tiny, all of which were negative. So she’s just thin and slow to grow is the conclusion, and docs wanted us to ensure she is getting a certain number of calories a day. As a result, while normally I would just say, “Oh, dinner’s over,” this is a kid we need to get to eat to avoid medical concern. Any strategies to move this along? This morning, a roll, two strawberries, four slices of banana, and a bit of yogurt took over 30 minutes. I’m losing my mind.

—I CANNOT SIT AT THE TABLE FOR AN HOUR EVERY MEAL

Dear ICSATTFAHEM,

Of course you can’t! I think you need to embrace grazing. Sometimes you have to be that parent who always has Ziplocs of Cheerios and shelf-stable yogurt and fruit pouches and gummy vitamins in their bag. Work on getting snacks into her during the day (smoothies are a real gift in terms of jamming in calories) so your dinner can just be a normal dinner length. When it’s over, it’s over.

This is extremely likely to pass with time, though some kids just have small stomachs or dislike the sensation of fullness and remain grazers eternally. (There’s nothing wrong with that!) Keep in close touch with her pediatrician about where she is on the charts and if she shows any other signs of malnutrition, and just ride this out.

—Nicole