Blindsided by Childhood Milestones

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.

childhood milestones, milestone, old milestone

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?




  1. says

    These are all so sweet, interlaced, as is your gift, with humor. I never thought about the staying up waiting for them to come home as curfew approaches as a full circle to those nights when they were infants – but you’re spot on! Having had my oldest have a daughter of her own was a milestone – and a big one! Now she is a mom and we have a whole new level on which to relate. Having my son join the Air Force and be stationed overseas – serving his country in ways I never have was a milestone. Having both daughters, and one of my sons babysit for other children now and then was a milestone I didn’t anticipate – that other little ones were in their care. And having a married daughter invite ME for dinner was another one….I love that I know they’ll keep coming – milestones that is!

    • says

      That is an amazing list of milestones I had not even considered. Grandchildren….epic. Being invited for dinner…so lovely. You must be so proud of all of your kids and everyone should be proud of your son.

  2. says

    First stage performances…when you are the only one that knows that the LOOK on your child’s face is not a smile but a grimace of sheer terror.

    • says

      In a family like mine with no talent of any sort this has never come up, but I imagine that it is huge. Funny how we can read those face.

  3. says

    I would have to say the feeling I had when we dropped our daughter off at college. She was always so in control, never looking back once from preschool on, so the meltdown as we were leaving pretty much too me by surprise. Of course now she would prefer her own apartment rather than come home.

  4. Lisa says

    When I dropped my oldest at college and he wasn’t very nice to me . . . at all! I assumed that that day would come but it hurt so badly despite the fact that I understood it was his way of separating. He and I had always had a very close, loving relationship and this was a big smack on the head. We are just fine now but my crying breakdown in the campus coffee shop wasn’t one of my finer moments.

    • says

      Ohhh I understand that breakdown. I had mine the minute he walked away and then he remembered that he had forgotten something in our luggage and came back! As you say not one of our finer moments. Thanks for sharing yours

  5. says

    The ones I think about most often are the ones that slip by unnoticed as kids grow out of things. I said something to a friend about reading Goodnight Moon to one of my girls and she said, “Oh, Goodnight Moon. You never know when you are reading it for the last time.” That comes back to me all the time as I realize there are things my kids have outgrown or stopped doing.

    • says

      It is such a poignant thought that we never know those last times. I remember wishing so many moments back so I could savor the last time. Thank you Korinthia, for reminding me.

  6. says

    Ohhh, I don’t know… maybe the 2am call from the cops that my son was just caught- up on his Highschool’s roof in camo? That was an interesting Milestone. (don’t worry- it wasn’t what you might be thinking). He turned out fine!

    • says

      Yikes, must have been a heart dropping moment at the time! So glad that it turned out fine…what parents of little kids don’t know yet!!

      • says

        You’ve no idea. (I’m breathing deeply and sipping wine as I write this- you will too).

  7. says

    Love this – it reminds me of all those special childhood moments that seem like they happened ages ago. Although my boys are in their 20s, there are so many milestones still to come.

  8. says

    The first thing that came to mind was not only the sleepover, but the extended sleepover…summer camp. Our family spent a fair amount of time at a nearby church-affiliated camp when the kids were growing up. But, it was a bit different when I dropped them off and left! My oldest son was always more of a homebody and although he never protested attending, I could tell his heart wasn’t into it. He was always packed and waiting for our arrival at the end of his week. My daughter, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found the day we arrive to pick her up the first time! She was having too much fun! This summer she will be working on staff at this same camp…another milestone.

    • says

      Camp is a big one, really big one. It is one of those childhood experiences that seems transformative. Thanks for sharing and reminding me.

  9. says

    So many milestones are missed because they’re the LAST time they happen – last time you give your kids a bath, or carry them to bed –

    For me it was when my son had surgery on his eyes at 9 months old – that was a milestone because there was so little I could control about the situation – and as he had more surgeries over the years, I became more and more trusting and comfortable of the medical community.

    • says

      Ohhh Sharon that must have been so hard. I cannot imagine how you must have worried. Yes those last times slip by us before we even know they are gone.

  10. says

    There are so many milestones that happened, yet as you ask me I cannot think of the most memorable. Probably it was when she went to kindergarten on the bus. Mom (me) did not like that. Each paragraph about a different milestone that you wrote about took me to a nice memory. Thank you so much.

    • says

      Thank you for jumping into the conversation, so love hearing your thoughts. Think comments must be the nicest part of blogging.

  11. Donna says

    All you listed have also been this crazier milestone moments around here. But so far, the most challenging thing for me has been the independence of going off to college and realizing they the kids don’t really “have to” call home. With them a few states away I find my mind wandering to all manner of visions when the kids go days…even weeks, without calling. Keeping up with their lives on Facebook just isn’t the same! Letting go and trusting they are safe is challenging enough, but not knowing about their daily life…what did they buy at the mall, making their favorite breakfast, reminding them to put gas in the car, just hearing their voice…those are proving to be tougher moments than potty training :0)’

  12. says

    Those were some memorable milestones, that is for sure. Sleep away camp was another one for me! None of my kids ever had any real problem separating from me. I remember bringing my daughter to preschool for the first time and filling out paperwork, and she says to me “Mommy you can go now.” When I explained to her that I had to fill out the paperwork, she told me to hurry up so I could go. Miss Independent!

  13. Cherise says

    I cried at the goal milestone. I missed my daughter’s first ever goal and I will make myself mentally pay for that for years to come. I love reading your posts.

  14. says

    I criedat the soccer goal blindside. I missed my daughter’s first goal and I will forever punish myself for that.

  15. says

    funny how motherhood is the only job we hold were success is achieved when we get fired. it often struck me as we crossed these milestones, that unlike the other relationships we have in our lives, motherhood is filled with the little goodbyes.

    beautiful post.

    • says

      This first struck me as I watched my eldest walk for the first time away from me and towards his father. Motherhood is the long goodbye.

  16. Regina says

    When they screw up or make substantial mistakes and not only recover from the fiasco but learn. This is very hard but realizing your boys are resilient is a fantastic parental experience.

  17. says

    Leaking amniotic fluid! Haha, didnt expect to read that but so funny! The whole driving thing is something I cant think about. That terrifies me so much the thought of losing sleep never crept in. Til now! Great post, love it!