Milestones That Matter

Kaly Sullivan essays

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I never thought my first child would learn to sleep.

I was eight months pregnant and laying on the floor of his room trying to scrunch my bloated body to fit on an orange shag rug the size of a lily pad. I was weeks away from bringing another baby into our home, but I wasn't thinking about the new baby at all. I wasn't shopping for the perfect nursery accessory or folding onesies into origami. I was hoping, praying, laying prostrate on the floor, trying to get the baby that I already had to sleep.

I couldn't see a future where this sleepless child could operated like a regular human. I couldn't see past the edge of the orange shag rug that had become my outpost.

“What the hell am I doing?” I thought as my son gazed at me wide awake from inside his crib.

Now my boys are eight and nine. The oldest one, who would rarely sleep for more than a few hours at a time as a baby, has to be gently prodded from sleep in the morning to make it to the bus on time.

Recently, he went to a friend's house, and they decided to go out and play in the snow. They put on their gear and went outside. All by themselves.

I was chatting with the host of this playdate and she mentioned how they had assembled and donned their gear without her help. She said, “Those are the milestones that no one talks about but that really change things.”

And I thought, yes. That's it exactly. There's so much emphasis put on the baby stages. First smiles. First teeth. First steps. We try to record these physical developments in books to mark our progress, but they don't really change anything.

The milestones that change things give you a glimpse into how this small person will one day be a functioning member of society. These are the milestones I want to record. These are the ones I want to commemorate with banners and great cheers and fanfare.

When they climb into the car, position themselves in their seats, close the door and buckle themselves in.

When they walk home from the bus stop on their own.

When you don't see their poop anymore.

When they learn to dry their own tears and move on.

When they pack their own school bag.

When they fold their own laundry.

When they get their own snacks and pour their own drinks.

When they put on their own clothes, socks and shoes.

When they're out the door to play before you can ask them where they are going.

With their snow gear on.

I couldn't imagine when I was laying on the floor wishing my son would learn how to sleep that my children would ever reach that level of self-sufficiency.

These things do come. And with them comes relief. Physical relief from the constant supervision that babies and young children demand, but also mental relief. Because not only did you teach them how to do these things through constant reminders, presence and guidance, but they demonstrate that you might just be getting something right as a parent.

We don't write them down. They just happen. And we realize, maybe we do know what the hell we are doing after all.


About the Author

Kaly Sullivan

When Kaly doesn’t have her nose in a book, she wrangles and referees two elementary age boys and about her often humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life. She's the co-founder of Harlow Park Media and is the author of Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family's Relocation. Her writing has been featured on Mamalode, In The Powder Room, and Scary Mommy. You can follow her on , and .

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