I record for posterity all of my kids’ important developmental milestones like walking, talking, and eating solid foods. I also keep a running list in my head of achievements I’m excited for them to hit as they grow because they’ll make my life, as their mom and primary caregiver, just a little bit easier.
And while I can’t fathom some of the challenges that will come with raising tweens and teens, I’m pretty sure my future 13-year-old will be able to wipe her own butt, so when my kids hit these less publicized milestones, I plan to pop a bottle of champagne. Will you join me?
When they stop putting things in their mouths, noses and ears. This phase starts when they’re babies, but it keeps going for an unreasonably long period of time. They graduate from putting objects in their mouths to jamming stuff up their noses and in their ears.
Once, a friend told me that she had to leave work early because her three-year-old put a bean in her ear — a bean — and the preschool couldn’t get it out. I personally recall sticking a button up my nose, and if I remember doing it, then I had to be at least five or six when it happened. By the way, here’s a tip I picked up after the button incident: Pretend to blow out a candle. This action somehow dislodges whatever’s in the nose. It works; trust me.
When they’re done teething. We’re so close to hitting this one, and it’ll be a welcome relief to never again have to wonder, “Is he teething?” when my son is fussy or has a restless night.
When they graduate from using car seats and booster seats. I almost don’t believe this day will ever come, but when it does, it’ll be worth the wait. Our family will be free to move about the city, country, and world without the added bulk of this equipment.
When they can go to the bathroom by themselves. I’m not talking about initial potty training. Having to carry around an extra pair of undies and pants “just in case” still requires me to play a very hands-on role in the whole potty process. Instead, I will toast some bubbly when they can wipe themselves, pull up their pants, flush the toilet, and wash their hands effectively without reminders from me.
When they can sleep through the night. Listen, when my kids were infants, I set this bar really low, and I rejoiced when they each slept six straight hours in the middle of the night. I’m raising my standards now, and I long for the day when there are no more random mid-night wakings due to bed-wetting, nightmares, or a beloved stuffed animal lost in a mess of blankets.
When they make their own breakfast in the morning. Having my kids fend for themselves in the morning while I sleep for an extra 10 minutes will be bliss, as I’ve already explained here.
When they can sit in a restaurant or an airplane or anywhere and behave like civilized humans. To no longer ask for the bill as soon as the meal is served will be a decadent joy, signaling the end of our race against meltdowns. To no longer board an airplane armed with enough snacks to feed every passenger will be a literal weight lifted from my shoulders. To no longer have a pit in my stomach when we’re out in public, worried whether my kids will behave or if a stranger will say something critical to us will be an incomparable relief.
When they can complete their homework without my help. I know I’ll struggle with helping my kids do their homework and not doing it for them. Sitting down with them after we’ve all had a long day, patiently asking them open-ended questions and resisting the urge to exclaim, “For God’s sake, the answer is four! Two times two equals four,” is going to be tough. The sooner their calculus is over my head, the better, but I promise to always proofread their research papers.
Believe me when I say that I don’t want to rush through life with my young family. I know I’ll miss their toddler kisses and cuddles, the dimples on their little knuckles, their tiny voices, and the way they adorably mispronounce words like, “Willie the Pooh,” instead of “Winnie.”
Even so, I’m never sad when they enter a new stage of development, and I don’t think that’ll change. I’ll be thankful that they’re healthy and growing right on track. I’ll rejoice in what fun their new skills bring to our family, and I’ll celebrate when they say, “I can do it myself” and really mean it. So here’s to getting sidelined from some of the most demanding phases of parenting. Cheers!