I am a mom who loves information about children. Years before I was a mom, I was consuming information about parenting. I spent hours reading “mommy blogs” like Mighty Girl, Dooce, Girls Gone Child and watching Momversation videos. I liked the mom culture and enjoyed hearing about people’s lives and children.
When I was pregnant with my oldest, I got “Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.” It was an unpanicked resource that I loved. The concise guide prevented me from diving down the rabbit hole that is the internet looking and freaking out when I needed guidance with some kind of rash or sore.
But my favorite thing about the book was the milestone section. At the end of each month chapter, the book listed 8-10 milestones to watch for as the baby developed.
I watched, sometimes daily, to see what milestone my baby was hitting or about to hit. The milestone list gave me an idea where we were going, and I felt prepared and aware of what would come next. It went like this for the first few months, and slowly I forgot about the book.
My girls are getting bigger now, and I am surprised by how some forms of their development feel like such huge milestones! These are things that I knew would happen but didn’t really think about. Then when they happened, I was almost caught me off guard with how big and important they seem.
Here are three moments I didn’t expect to be milestones, but they most certainly are!
1. Learning to Pump on a Swing
Last summer we sent our daughter to Vacation Bible School for the first time. This was a new experience for her and us. It was great for me initially because it was a place for her to go the week after we moved to a new house, and it gave me time to unpack. This low-cost, high supervision, fun Jesus-week is still bringing dividends. That week she had typical summer camp experiences like making new friends, doing arts and crafts, singing cheesy camp songs and having fun without mom and dad.
My milestone moment came the Monday after when we went to the playground together. I started to push her sister in a swing and offered to give my then 4-year-old a push, when she told me with a grin, ” I learned how to pump at Vacation Bible School! I can do it myself now!”
With that, I watched her strong legs and body find the rhythm of forward and back, forward and back. I loved watching her swing higher and higher. She was beaming, and in that moment I thought, “She’s so big now. This is a milestone.”
2. Eating Dog Food
It seems like eating pet food accidentally is almost a rite of childhood. It’s nothing you’d introduce to your child, but somehow it happens. Since we don’t have a dog, I didn’t even think about this being a thing for us.
About a month ago, my girls and I were at a cousin’s house for dinner. I first noticed something might be wrong when I saw the dog’s water dish had been tipped over a little. My first thought was that the baby had been curious and played in the water. Then I saw her face. Her tight, chipmunk-cheeks cued me in that something was up. I dug around in her mouth and found no less than 8 pieces of dog food, moistened and ready to be eaten for an after-dinner snack. She was angry with me for taking the food that she found on her own, in such a nice dish, at just the right height, but oh well. I can now check off the “Ate Dog food” box.
3. Back to School Night
I knew my kids would go to school eventually. I planned on it. But somehow I felt caught unaware when we moved for the second time at our duty station and realized our daughter could enroll at Pre-K at our local public school. I heard great things about the part-day program, and we ultimately decided it would be good for her and us.
We talked about what it would be like, we got her excited to go to school, and we planned to attend Back to School night as a family. I don’t know if it was the stale cafeteria smell, the tiny perpetually sticky seats or the low roar of kids ready to come back for another year, but somehow my eyes teared up as they talked about the school, the schedule and where to go to meet the teacher. Who gets emotional at Back to School night?!
I thought back to the schools I had attended, friends I had and things that would be different/the same as when I went to school. It hit me that this was life for the next 14 years with my girl. Mentally, I thought I had another year since this was just Pre-K, but it felt bigger since it was at the elementary school.
I know there will be many more milestones that aren’t listed in parenting books. And I also know I’ll continue to be surprised and amazed at the small, incredible adventures we have together.
What are some unexpected milestones in your life with your children?