There are two sets of milestones that parents cherish. The first set includes the “hallmark moments”. First smiles, first steps, first words, first haircuts, first days of school, and so on. These are memories to last a lifetime, if after another kid or two, years of sleep deprivation, and mild brain atrophy due to excessive exposure to the “Bubble Guppies,” you actually remember them.
The “other” set contains the moments that parents crave after weeks, months, and years of backbreaking, hard work. These landmarks include when your kid finally wipes his own butt (Hallelujah!) or turns on the television by himself (Mazel Tov!). They’re the milestones that all parents look forward to whether they admit it or not, and they include:
1. Your baby holds his own bottle. I dare say this milestone is as life changing as online banking. Now, while your baby eats, you can open the mail or fold the laundry or go to the bathroom or drive or simultaneously control the DVR, scroll your Facebook news feed, fill a nordstrom.com shopping cart, and eat Skinny Pop WITH BOTH HANDS!
2. Your kid sleeps past dawn. Anyone who believes parenthood and a good night’s sleep go to together probably also believes that a kid who’s potty trained won’t still poop in his pants in the cereal aisle at the grocery store every now and then. (He will.) Nighttime wake-ups are rough, but being forced out of bed day after day when the moon is still bright to greet a wide-eyed, screaming toddler before network television has switched from Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty infomercial to the morning news for two long years takes its toll. When my rooster finally slept until 6:00am consistently—when he finally broke the cycle of waking up at 4:02am ready to conquer the day with finger paint, Play-Doh, and “Dora The Explorer”—I knew I’d survived and lived to tell the tale of one of the biggest hurdles of early parenting.
3. Your kid is 87% potty trained (i.e. he still pees and poops in all the wrong places, but the initial “house arrest” is over). Other than giving birth, I can’t think of a more difficult, frightening, heart wrenching, exhausting, and anxiety-filled challenge than potty training my two stubborn little boys. If I’d been given more detail on this harrowing phase of early childhood development before I became a parent, I might’ve chosen to remain childless.
4. You don’t have to go inside bounce houses anymore. The last time I was forced inside a loud, dirty, sticky, smelly, kid filled, vomit infused, and germ infested bounce house was the first day of the rest of my life.
5. You don’t have to go in the pool with your kids. I watch my kids closely when they’re in the pool and they both know how to swim, but not having to save the life of a slippery, sinking (and probably pooping in his swim diaper) toddler every 15-20 seconds is an enormous relief. Besides that, my boys think I’m jungle gym equipment. If I go in the water, they splash, climb, and hang all over me, and I’m far too lazy for that level of aquatic activity. (Remember the pre-kid days when pools were for floating, sipping fruity drinks, and reading beachy books?) The clincher is that I don’t have to be swimsuit ready all the time. I know, I know. Put on that swimsuit, Mama! But let's face it, primping for the pool is an exhausting multi-step process that involves thigh loathing (sad but true), bikini line maintenance (or lack thereof), and sunscreen application (who will get my back?)
6. You can take a shower while your kids are home and awake. If I’m in the shower, my kids will inevitably interrupt me every 45 seconds to referee a fight, fix a toy, or ask for a snack (my personal favorite when I’m covered in soap suds with shampoo dripping down my face). But I can finally trust them not to walk out the front door, drink bleach, or play inside the oven. A shower is a shower, even if it only lasts three minutes and is as tranquil as a root canal.
7. Separation does not result in your kid having to be surgically removed from your body. I still occasionally have PTSD-related night sweats from all of the times my boys had to be peeled off of me, sometimes by more than one adult, during five combined years of preschool drop-offs. It didn’t matter how many times the teachers said, “He’s fine once you’re gone!” The guilt from those unbearable goodbyes was difficult to shake off. On most mornings these days, my kids give me a wave and a kiss (if I’m lucky), hop out of the car, and skip happily into their day without looking back. It’s a flipping miracle.
8. Your kids can buckle their own seat belts. The car is the scene of some of my worst parenting moments. Texting while driving is dangerous. Parenting while driving is worse. It’s a loud, messy, chaotic, and often horrific experience without having to get in, out, and all around the vehicle to secure my kids’ seatbelts, particularly when they WON’T FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY SIT DOWN. Training them to buckle themselves has cut my auto-related hysteria in half.
9. You don’t have to push your kid on the swings. I do enough fetching, cleaning, washing, folding, searching for missing Lego pieces, and “Rescue Bots” watching at home to deserve a short break, especially when I score a spot on a bench in the shade. In addition, I had two children for several reasons, one of which was so that they could push each other on the swings.
10. Your kid sleeps in a bed without side rails. I don’t enjoy making beds in general, so imagine my aversion to making one with protective side rails flush with metal bars, straps, brackets, and hooks that leave me marred with cuts and bruises every time I’m within a six-inch radius. (These things are supposed to make sleeping safer!) I’d rather fold and refold the same king size fitted sheet all day long while watching “The Lego Movie” on repeat than change the sheets on a kid’s bed with side rails. Wisdom (or apathy) has taught me that the best way to teach a kid not to fall out of his bed is to let him fall out of his bed. Eventually, he’ll figure it out.
11. You don’t have to wipe anyone else’s butt! After two kids and seven years of collective butt wiping, I have seen (and smelled and touched) more poop than I care to discuss. At this point, I don’t care if they do a crappy (pun intended) job. As long as they don’t involve me, we’re good.
12. You don’t have to wrestle your kids to brush their teeth. I’m pretty sure the “hands on” parenting I’ve been forced to employ to get a toothbrush with toothpaste on it inside my kids’ mouths would classify as misdemeanor child abuse in a court of law, but in my defense, neither one of them has had a cavity. These days, I don’t have to pin anyone down to get the job done, but it sure would be nice if they cleaned the sink.
13. Your kid can turn on the television by himself. I have two words for you:“Xbox On!” This miraculous piece of technology controls the entire entertainment center—including the TV, DVD player, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video—with voice commands so simple that even I know how to use it.
14. Your kid knows how to tie his own shoes. When my future teenage son gets his driver’s license, the agony and desperation I felt trying to teach him how to tie his shoelaces when he was a little boy will seem downright silly. Still, watching him struggle to get the damn bunny ear through the damn bunny hole over and over and over again was excruciating. He still ties them too loose and hecomes home nearly every day with wet and dirty laces dragging on the ground, but, by golly, he mostly does it all by himself.
15. You can drop your kid off at a birthday party. This requires no further explanation.
I know there are many more milestones to come as my kids enter (gulp) adolescence. In fact, my older son recently had a successful sleepover. If we could just get the little one invited next time, the pinnacle of “other” milestones will be achieved: All of your kids sleep someplace else and you finally get a good night’s sleep.
Do you have any “other” milestones to add to the list?