The Milestones You Should Really Celebrate
Baby books always have a special page for moms and dads to list important milestones: the first tooth, the first step, the first haircut. Parenting books sometimes mention milestone regressions, such as how a child sleeping through the night is a complete fake-out; in most cases, a child reverts to nighttime wakings because of teething pain, growth spurts, or the development of childhood fears.
What parents eventually realize is how many milestones the books fail to document. Some of these parents greet with a sense of profound relief; other milestones feel unexpected and bittersweet.
Personal hygiene is another milestone for both kids and parents, whether it is tooth-brushing, deodorant application, or regular showering without a parent having to forcibly put the child in the tub. Even though parents may quake at the thought of their children becoming teenagers, this developmental stage has its benefits. While a 10-year-old boy doesn’t care whether he stinks, a 15-year-old boy does, which means he will not only brush his
Potty-training is a monumental milestone, but parents often erroneously think once a child can use the toilet, the achievement is met. But Sarah Burress, a mom of two sons in Mount Washington, Kentucky, says she is looking forward to her son “not taking off all his clothes when he poops.” And Devin Boughey awaits the day when her toddler doesn’t require someone to hold her hand during bowel movements. For some parents, celebratory dances occur when their child can successfully and independently wipe after bathroom events.
Bathing independence can come with a tinge of sadness. Jennifer Browning, a mom of three in Richmond, Kentucky, says, “The one thing I miss is tub toys. I didn’t realize it was a milestone until it was gone. It’s a fun time when they enjoy taking a bath.” As children grow up and don’t want their parents to see their bodies, parents may miss the closeness that came with bathing, drying, and dressing their children.
A milestone that my husband and I are enjoying is being able to leave the children alone in the house while we take a walk or run errands. My neighbor, who has four children under age 5, watches us wistfully as we pass by her house and has even asked me at what age this is possible. It does seem like it takes forever until a parent doesn’t have to put all the kids in the car to go anywhere. I distinctly remember how maddening it was to have to pack everyone in the car — with snacks — for a 10-minute grocery run for milk and bananas.
Some childhood milestones put parents in touch with their mortality.
Independent reading is a milestone. Gail Raderer says, “My favorite milestone has been watching my older kids ‘get’ reading. Not just read . . . but love it.” It is exciting to watch your child move from picture books to chapter books, but it is a little sad, too, when they no longer want to snuggle with you at bedtime while you read to them.
Eating has its own set of unexpected milestones. Judith Boyd, a mom of two kids, says being able to drink out of an open cup or pour a drink without spilling are big achievements. She is waiting patiently for her son and daughter to be able to open fruit bowls without spilling juice everywhere. (Honestly, I can’t do that as an adult, so I think it is a manufacturing issue.) A child’s willingness to eat foods other than chicken nuggets or pizza is another dietary milestone that parents are usually thrilled to see.