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The First Two Months

At a mere 4 months, my daughter, Rachel, began to shriek when I would pass her to anyone else, even her dad. Separation anxiety, a friend told me. Too early, I thought. All the books said that's a month-9 milestone.

But my friend was right. Rachel was early, and for months she yelped at each separation. But because I was so focused on stopping the crying, I didn't consider that the weeping itself signaled a step forward in her cognitive development. Memory, it turns out, is one of the first features of intellectual growth to show itself, and Rachel's wails revealed that hers was rapidly blooming. It allowed her to hold an image of me in her mind's eye then react at each departure, much to my chagrin.

"Parents tend to focus on the physical milestones, like walking, and split them off from a child's intellectual, social, and emotional growth," says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, in New York City. "But everything happens together. All those physical abilities are controlled by the brain, and as they begin to develop, so do other aspects of the child."

Rolling over, for instance, not only shows that muscles are developing on target, but it also feeds the baby's confidence and emotional well-being. If I'd had that perspective when Rachel was a baby, I might have been more understanding of her crying and more able to have fun helping her along, instead of worrying about the timing of her achievements. More of what I wish I'd known in the first two months: Betty Holcomb is a freelance writer in New Jersey and author of The Best Friend's Guide to Maternity Leave.