The End of the New Math

November 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

the-countIn a couple of weeks, Sasha will officially turn 2 years old, and when that happens, an important if annoying era will come to an end. I’m speaking, of course, of the frustratingly precise way in which we parents always answer the question, “How old is your child?”

Why is it frustrating? Because the question is most often asked by another parent who wants to compare, even if only implicitly, their kid’s development with yours. Is their 13-month-old taller than your 14-month-old? Can their 7-week-old hold her head up better than your 6-week-old?

For new or non-parents, this is how precise children’s ages are supposed to be:

• In the first 48 hours, you must say exactly how many hours old the child is.

• Days 2–10: Measure by the day.

• Day 11 through Week 13: Age is measured by the week; half-weeks are acceptable up through week 4, but after that it’s unseemly to do so.

• Week 13 through 11 months: Finally, your child is aging by the month! You may be tempted, however, to say things like “Oh, she’s 6 and a half months old,” but please don’t. No one cares.

• Month 11 through Month 13: Your child is one year old. God, isn’t that easy to say?

• Month 13 through Month 18: Count the months, but take pleasure, eventually, in saying your kid is “A year and half.” Feels nice, doesn’t it? So general, so imprecise—so grand-sounding, almost. Don’t get used to it.

• Month 18 to 2 years: This is the most frustrating time. Your kid is no longer “a year and a half,” and counting the months seems ridiculous now, an anal-retentive imposition. And yet you kind of have to; 20 months is not the same as 22. But thankfully, as you get closer to 2, you can just say (as I do), “She’s almost 2.” Who cares how close to 2? No one.

• Two years and up: At last, you can count by half years! Kids are 2 until they’re 2 and a half; then they’re 3. And so on. Around 9 or 10, if I remember correctly, even the half-years cease to matter. And then, one day in the distant future, they’re adults! And that’s when you begin counting how many years you yourself have left, making sure you take advantage of every year, month, week, day and hour. That is, if you don’t have Alzheimer’s.

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