As a brand new mom, I eagerly awaited every milestone my baby had, from that first smile, to being able to grab his feet to the oh-so-heart-bursting sound of that very first “Mama”! I dutifully recorded each one in my baby app on my phone or in my mommy journal. Then as my second son joined our family, I was excited to experience those milestones all over again, and share the joy of them with his big brother.
But there are some milestones they just don’t mention in the the books. Milestones you aren’t prepared for, or even looking out for. They just happen. One minute you’re wiping a snotty nose or struggling to wrestle shoes on little feet when suddenly it happens, you little one grabs the tissue and blows into it himself, or pulls the velcro strap across his shoes and looks up at you triumphantly. The breath gets caught in your chest, the tears well up, and you realize your baby is getting bigger, again and again.
The beginning of preschool was a milestone I thought I was prepared for but despite all the preparation, I was caught off guard the other day. It’s James’ birthday this week, he’s turning 4, and so they celebrated in school by having him wear a crown for the day and do special little things. At snack time, we were all sitting at the tables, in the little chairs, about to eat the miniature cupcakes I’d brought, when the kids all sang Happy Birthday to him. Boom, out of nowhere, I teared up. Sure we’ve had parties and I’ve heard kids sing that song to him before, but never at school! I got blindsided by yet another milestone.
With our younger son Luke, I’m sometimes worried I’m going to miss a milestone. James had my full attention for almost two years, but now I’m more distracted — my attention is divided. Luke tends to be more self-sufficient too. Maybe it’s a second-child thing. When James was young he was quick to seek help with things, or he’d get frustrated and give up right away if we didn’t intervene. Luke, on the other hand, rarely asks for help, and before I know it, he’s figured out how to do it on his own. It might be opening something (not always good) or maneuvering the furniture to climb up and accomplish his mission. He’s a get-it-done kinda guy. I have to watch him like a hawk.
Sometimes I’m so busy keeping up with him that I forget he’s actually accomplishing milestones. One day he’s happily content to stand in his crib calling for me after nap time, and the next he’s climbed out of his crib, open my door, unlocked the gate at the stairs, come down the stairs all by himself, put his shoes on and headed out the door! Wait, what? That’s like five milestones at once, and I’m too busy freaking out that he almost escaped the house to realize it.
So much for writing these down in my journal, I’m too busy feverishly ordering new child-proof door locks from Amazon.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.