Lisa writes: Parenthood is littered with Milestone Moments. Some we see coming, like registering for the draft, buying a bra, beginning high school or shaving. They are all expected, and all powerful. Yet other childhood milestones blindside us like a two by four with the rusty nails still sticking out.
SIbling Playdates. It was a huge childhood milestone the first time my kids actually played together, real interactive sibling-as-a-playdate played together. I looked on bursting with pride and thought they would become a perfect self-contained unit, full of rich imaginary play and support and understanding. And just when I was leaning back to admire my handiwork, feeling pretty good about myself, one son bit the other and was treated with a smack in the face for his efforts. My 30-seconds of fantasy was gone and life as I was really going to know it began.
Drivers License. This one is obvious, but what I didn’t realize was how much getting a driver’s license is akin to learning to walk. The first time my teens drove out of our driveway felt like the moment they stood up and walked away as toddlers. The only difference was that, behind the wheel, I worried far more and when they drove away, they didn’t turn around and come right back. These events may have been separated by 15 years but for me, they held the same power. They were when I realized that I wouldn’t need to carry them or drive them forever.
Cooking. It is a big milestone the first time a child makes himself a meal, when they put together a sandwich, boil some pasta and pour sauce on top or fry an egg. Up until that moment, my children’s very existence depended on my culinary skills, yet once I saw that fried egg, I knew they would not starve.
Homework. My kids were dying for homework, they wanted to bring books home and scribble on pieces of paper just like they had seen older kids do. Homework was like staying up late and watching non-Disney movies, a sign that you were grown. They wanted homework right up until the first afternoon they came home with it and, after exactly ten minutes, decided that they had had enough. I did not have the heart to tell them that this marked the beginning of 15 years of nights just as frustrating as the first.
Sleepovers. The fIrst time a child sleeps out is a big childhood milestone and has an eerie parallel to the first night in their dorms. I am not a crier but sobbed unattractively on both of these evenings. For the first sleepover, my older sons went together to a friend’s house, giving each other the courage to spend the night out and leaving me grieving and practically leaking amniotic fluid. It was perhaps not a sane moment. I would be saner, not pregnant, and yet still rattled by their first nights away at college.
Goal!!!!! The first time my kids scored a run or a goal or a basket or won a race (or came in second!) or whatever athletic accomplishment they were trying to achieve, they were transformed. Competition is part of life and, at that moment, it becomes part of theirs. As the ball slides through the hoop or into the goal, they glanced over at me both to gain parental approval and because they had seen the future.
Getting Braces On. I know that, for most kids, getting their braces off is a long-awaited date to be celebrated with sticky candy and chewing gum. But for me, the milestone was when they got them on. I took a child into the orthodontist’s office and emerged with a teen. Braces destroyed the beautiful childlike look on their faces and, coupled with acne, was a tell-tale sign that childhood was coming to an end.
Waiting Up for Them. This is the childhood milestone that told me that parenthood had come full circle. Babies keep us up at night and then teens do the same. Forcing myself to stay awake to see their safe return I realized that, once again, because of parenting, I had lost control of my sleep cycle.
What were your milestone moments, the ones you never saw coming?