Mommy A to Z

Motherhood, Alphabetized.

T is for… Ten Parenting Milestones You Won’t Find in Baby Books


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We’re all familiar with the developmental milestones of childhood: rolling over, crawling, mastering the Roku. However, there’s another set of milestones we often fail to acknowledge — those we experience as parents. These are the moments that change us forever, softening us, aging us, giving us new perspectives on what it means to raise a tiny human. Here are 10 parenting milestones you won’t read about in any baby book.

1. The first time your baby rolls off the bed. A sleep-deprived mom, wanting to do something silly like change her clothes, places a formerly static baby in the middle of a Queen-sized bed. She turns around for 30 seconds to grab a change of underwear — and suddenly said baby has tumbled off the bed and onto the floor, screaming and giving Mommy her first guilt trip. The horror of seeing your child with an injury you “should have” prevented is agonizing. It’s also a wake-up call to the fact as a parent you’re going to make mistakes — and that part of parenting is learning from them.

2. The first time you leave your child with another adult. There are no words for the tangled morass of guilt, heartbreak, freedom — and more guilt — you feel the first time you’re separated from your child. After you’ve ridden this roller coaster of emotion, you’ll return a changed parent indeed.

3. Your child’s first public tantrum. Remember the old you, who didn’t have any kids? Who’d watch some poor, misbehaving urchin throw a fit because he didn’t want his pizza cut up — and think how his parents knew nothing about discipline and should get a clue? (And maybe hit the gym and get their roots colored?) Yeah, that person no longer exists. Which is good, because you now hate that person.

4. The first time you realize you’re the center of their world. You get up to go to the bathroom, and suddenly your toddler’s face crumbles. He’s surrounded by toys, yet all he wants is to sit on your lap (or climb on your head). You’re his provider, his security, his source of knowledge about the world around him. If that’s not enough to age you ten years, I don’t know what is.

5. The first time your child doesn’t want you. But don’t get too used to being the center of your child’s universe. Because there will come a time when your precious daughter only wants her other parent to push her in the shopping cart. Or have Grandma read her a story. Or, worst of all, have the babysitter braid Barbie’s hair. Ever feel tiny and insignificant? Welcome to parenthood.

6. The day you say goodbye to the breast. The end of nursing is a whirlwind of emotions. On the one hand, you reclaim your body. No more sore nipples, or scheduling your life around feedings, or worrying about leaking during a meeting. On the other hand, it marks the end of one of the most intimate and special bonds you and your child will ever share. Who would have thought you’d actually miss your breast pump?

7. Your child’s first visit to the emergency room. One minute your child is happily dancing around the living room. Then next, a table corner jumps out of nowhere and — Oh, God! — does he need stitches? You haven’t been fully indoctrinated into parenthood until you’ve found yourself in a hospital room, filling out insurance forms with one hand and comforting a screaming child with the other — all while trying to convince an indifferent ER nurse that these types of shenanigans never happen in your house.

8. The day you finally toss the diaper bag. Good riddance big, ugly bag that could house an entire family of small canines. Hello, cute purse stuffed with extra pants, Spiderman underwear, fruit snacks, and (somewhere) your keys and phone. You’re back on the path to your own personal style. Soon you’ll even be wearing hoop earrings and white pants! Or at least something besides flats.

9. The day your “baby” gets on that school bus. Of course you don’t want your child to be illiterate. But there are few moments as difficult as watching your baby leave to face the world on her own, without your sheltering embrace to keep her safe. What if the other kids are mean? What if her teachers don’t get what makes her so special? What if she’s subjected to Common Core math? Suddenly illiteracy doesn’t sound so bad.

10. The moment you realize they’ve got this. Your daughter stands up for a child who’s being bullied. Your son returns a twenty-dollar bill someone dropped on the ground. At some point you realize that all the lectures, all the advice, all the words of “wisdom” you spouted when you thought they weren’t listening — all those things made a difference. Somehow they’re growing into responsible young people who make you proud every day. No, you can’t always be by their side. But remarkably, they don’t need you to be.

Of course, this list could go on to include many other pivotal parenting moments, from first dates to first days of college. But for those of us still at the beginning of this journey, it’s these early moments that reveal the beauty, joy, and heartbreak ahead. Because every milestone — whether it’s waving after a school bus or holding your child’s hand as she gets stitched up — brings us closer to the parents we strive to be, and the parents they deserve.

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