Sleeping in a bed, wearing underwear, uttering her first word, using the potty, getting that first haircut, writing his name – these are commonly celebrated baby milestones. Sure, those steps are great. Of course they should be acknowledged. However, here are six unsung milestones that deserve celebration too.
The first time baby says "Mama" is magical. Finally I feel like the mom I am! He says it so sweetly and he's proud. It's said long after "Dada" and "cookie" and every other two syllable item in sight. He holds back to increase the build-up. He knows what he's doing.
"Mommy" comes months after, usually quietly. It grows slowly. It muffle-morphs until you finally hear it clearly, from the crib. "Mommy. Mommy. I'm up."
"Mom" comes abruptly. You are "Mommy" when she's sweet and sometimes whiny. Then one day, she says "Mom," and your head turns like you heard a gunshot. It's not just the word, it's the tone. She's condemning. And just like that, she's proclaimed herself a big kid.
This happens in two stages for the five-point car-seat system. The first stage is clicking together the top buckle. This is not be celebrated. A grown-up still has to tend to the bottom. You encourage, you assist, you insist he tries. Finally, the payoff. One day, he buckles the bottom too. Happy day! Now you open the door, he jumps in, and you close. You're in the car in no time. Errands feel easier. You don't mind pickups. Life is breezy.
Maybe she breastfed or maybe she didn't. Either way, you sometimes gave her a cup. You needed a minute while you chopped the salad, or she demanded juice just like her older brothers. She's in the high chair while you cook. At first you stand beside her, steadying the cup with your pinkie as you cut tomatoes. You drop something and pull away your finger. The cup falls and her anger flares. Over time, she becomes fine on her own. She picks it up when she wants it. She's in control of her thirst. She's happy and you have a free arm again.
Tell me I can run a mile to keep my children safe and healthy and I will. I'd run 20 miles. If it were that simple, I'd do it. When I had a mental breakdown at the pediatrician's office over worry of SIDS, I decided to actually look at the statistics. The utter terror of finding my baby not breathing crippled me in my weaker moments.
Statistics can be comforting. 90 percent of SIDS cases occurs between one and six months. Reach six months and your baby has a significantly lower risk of SIDS. If you're like me, that's an accomplishment to acknowledge. For many months, the stress gripped my stomach into knots. Then at six months, I allowed myself to finally breathe again.
Yay, he's out of diapers! You're so proud until you realize you're still wiping his heinie, only you've got less control. He's like a grenade that can go off at any time, anywhere. It's not easier. In fact, now you're summoned to clean him on his schedule, whenever he's ready. You teach him how to clean himself, but he's never thorough. You worry about kindergarten when he won't get assistance. He's running out of time.
However, slowly and surely he learns. It's touch-and-go at first, you still have to check, but gradually he gets it right. Later you're impressed that you're no longer needed in that department. Like sorority-house living, you miss that intimacy but you wouldn't go back.
"Mommy, push me!"
It's the seventh time she's asked that at the playground today. You're on the other side, tending to her younger brother. You pushed her in the swing before. She pouts when you say you can't right now. It's like you said, "Never ever again."
She practices and watches her older brother. She learns over time and one day she stops asking. You offer and she says she's a big kid and can go higher than a plane. This one feels bittersweet but you're happy she's happy. Some days she still let's you push for old times sake. She's so sweet to let you.
Every step forward, every insight, and every discovery is amazing. Don't just treasure the picture moments, the ones that are easily shared on Facebook. Love the little things that make you proud. Notice the best part of the ordinary day.
It takes a village!
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