7 Unsung Milestones

Parenting a young child is very much about “firsts.” First smiles, first laughs, first steps, first words, first day of school—all wonderful and important moments in your little one’s life.

I love those big milestones as much as anyone. Hey, take one glance at my Instagram and you’ll see that I document the hell out of them. But watching our son work through some of the more practical—albeit less-lauded— life to-do’s has thrilled me in a way that rivals what I felt when he took his first wobbly steps on December 17, 2009.* I love seeing him suss out how to function as a person in this world; it is one of my greatest joys as his mother. Sometimes I can’t help myself from punching the air and shouting, “He’s doing it! He’s a real, live boy!”

The milestones listed below probably won’t be the first that come to mind as you watch those two lines pop up on that pregnancy test; or as you lovingly rub your very pregnant belly; or as you look through tears of euphoria and/or exhaustion at your new little baby. But I promise you: when they happen, you’ll be so proud you won’t be able to stand it.


1. Thumb appreciation
I know, I know. People have opinions about thumb-sucking and whether parents should discourage their babies from doing it. Here’s mine: if it makes baby happy, let baby do it. My son was born with a callus on his lip, presumably from sucking his thumb in utero, and the day he was able to maneuver it into his mouth was joyous for us all. It was fascinating to watch him figure out how to soothe himself—and thumb-sucking is just really cute.

Added bonus: you’ll never have to retrieve a dropped thumb from underneath a crib or carseat. I hope.**

2. Nose-blowing mastery
Because you know what’s great? Not having to hold your child down to suck snot out of his face. The first time my child blew his nose, I sent celebratory, all-caps texts to multiple people.


3. Carseat independence
There will come a day when your children are able to just…get into the car. Then they’ll buckle themselves in. When you arrive at your destination, they’ll unbuckle themselves and get out of the car.***

I know, right?

4. Drop-off birthday parties
When our son’s best friend turned five, her mom sent out birthday party invitations with a little note at the bottom: “Parents are welcome but not required to stay.” On the day of the party we escorted our son into his friend’s house, exchanged hellos with the other parents, and left.

To go have a beer.

In the middle of the day.

By ourselves while someone—someone we weren’t paying—was entertaining our child.

It was, hands down, one of the best moments in my life as a mother so far. It’s the norm now that our son is seven, and I will never take breathers like that for granted.

5. Bathroom boundaries
Haha don’t get too excited. This has nothing to do with your time in the bathroom. But eventually your child will no longer want to discuss with you the nuances of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friendships while he poops. He’ll actually request some privacy and will need minimal (if any) assistance with clean-up.

6. Getting “a thing”
When your kids are little, you sort of throw a bunch of activities at them to see what will stick. We exposed our son to all sorts of “things” in his toddler and preschool years—art, soccer, swimming, T-ball, and so on—but it wasn’t until the last year or so that his true interests surfaced and solidified. He’s all about riding bikes and playing Minecraft these days, and I delight in watching him do what he loves.


7. Sincere and unprompted declarations of love
Earlier this week, as we were driving to school, my son stopped mid-sentence during our morning chat about this and that.

“You ok, bud?” I asked, looking at him in the rearview mirror.

He sighed.

“I just really love you so much, Mama.”

See what I mean? First steps ain’t got nothin’ on a moment like that.

*Yes, I know the exact date.
**It is, however, impossible to take a thumb away, so breaking the thumb habit takes longer than breaking the pacifier habit. Pick your poison, I guess.
***Be aware: just because they can doesn’t mean they will. This milestone will bring with it what I call “The Inertia Phase.” If a kid is out of the car, he or she will not want to get in the car. Once in the car, he or she will not want to get out of the previously-undesirable car. Still, it’s better than fighting an arched-back toddler into a carseat.

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