The release of episode #50 got me thinking about milestones. As humans, we measure our lives milestone to milestone. Some are arbitrary (like releasing fifty podcasts), others are less so (like birthdays).
All too often we also measure our worth by milestones. Perhaps no group is more guilty of this than parents. Hence, I decided to pile on and rank parenting milestones from my relatively short period as a parent.
Here we go, my top nine…
9. Moving Beyond the Car Seat
My eldest was just cleared by her pediatrician to ride in the car without any sort of car seat. And so ended a nine year journey that included multiple seats, various configurations and awkward mirrors. The times that I struggled (and even pulled muscles) to install a car seat in the dark or in a rental will not be missed. Air travel also just became a little less clunky. This is a milestone of convenience.
8. First Night Without Kids
As we discussed in episode #39, Life After Kids, Fact or Fiction, once you have kids those weekend getaways become difficult if not impossible. Not only are the logistics a challenge, but also developing a level of comfort to leave your child with someone else is tough. It’s possible that mom or dad have never been more than a few feet or minutes from baby since the birth. This milestone means you’re ready to have a life as a couple again. Well, sort of a life.
7. Losing a Tooth
How is it a parenting milestone when your kid loses their first tooth? Your child is becoming an adult. You’ve successfully reared them to that magical point in life where stuff starts falling apart. The long, slow downhill slide has begun. Congrats!
6. Eating Real Food
With all the hassle that comes along with kids and mealtime, the moment they are able to pick up whole foods with their greasy mitts and stuff their own little pie holes is liberating. No longer do you have to make or buy baby food. Junior can simply eat diced versions of whatever you are eating. When you go out of the home, you don’t have to carry puréed slop. Again, there is the new challenge that is fruits and vegetables and kid’s menus. BUT, it’s better than the alternative and a milestone of note.
Many parents find that early walking stage a frustrating one. To me, it was always one of the best times. We can all agree that there isn’t anything much cuter than a little human teetering around like a Muppet, learning how to explore the world on their own two feet. For me, the transition to walking marked a return to my own personal physical well being. Carrying kids everywhere, especially as they grow and become more physical, is a beating. While head butts hurt for a short moment, the numbing back pain is far worse. Plus, your cardio improves as you chase your little one all over creation.
One of the most annoying moments for moms is when their child says its first word. Why, you ask? No matter how involved we are as dads, mom has spent far more time in close contact with baby over the first year or so of life. Yet the first word out of almost every child’s mouth is “dada”. Cruel twist of nature aside, talking is a milestone because it means that verbal communication with your child is reciprocated. Of course, they don’t care what you have to say for at least twenty five years, but it’s a start.
The first day of kindergarten is an important milestone. Kindergarten represents the entry into a formal system of education. Unless you home school, it’s also the first time your child is on their own for a full day with reduced adult supervision. If you’ve gotten them this far, you’ve most likely prepared them to navigate things like recess, cafeteria food and melting crayons on the classroom heater. Do kids still get to do that?
2. Potty Training
Shortly after our first was born, a stranger came up to me and my wife to see our baby. He laughed and said, “Do you know what the best sound in the world is?” I replied with something to the effect of, “When your child is silent?” He chuckled again, “No, the sound of your child flushing the toilet!” Still too early in my parenting adventure to have diaper fatigue, I didn’t fully realize all that he meant. Now having lived through seven years of diapers (with my kids, not for myself…yet), I can say with confidence that that stranger was right. Of course children in public restrooms is a whole new disaster in itself, but the end of wiping butts and diaper genies is indeed a milestone worth smellebrating.
1. Sleeping Through the Night
What do North Korea and newborns have in common? Both torture their captives with sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation makes you dumb, cranky and sick. Sometimes it even makes you hate your spouse or partner. It still shocks me to recall some of the words that were shared between me and my wife in that first year, under the full moon, as our 213th night of sleep was again broken. If we were on Sesame Street we would have had two letters of the day: “F” and “U”. And then it happens. Your little rascal sleeps for six straight hours one night. Immediately all is good and right in the world again. It might be weeks before it happens again, but hope is an amazing thing. Sufficient sleep, more than exercise or healthy eating, gives us what we need to be functional humans. Which is why the full night of sleep is my number one milestone.
If we were on Sesame Street we would have had two letters of the day: “F” and “U”.
Having ticked through the above list, I’m feeling good about what I’ve accomplished as a parent thus far. For a minute. Then I realize that the list of milestones my kids need to attain before they leave the nest is far more daunting the ones I’ve faced thus far. Alas, life goes on. Milestone to milestone.