Part of the joy of being a parent is experiencing the rapid growth and change that a baby undergoes during the first years. Watching your tiny helpless lump of a baby start to turn into a little person who moves and talks and eats is truly a remarkable and amazing sight.
Vivienne has been on the verge of what we thought would be her first step by nine months old for about three months now. She is an extremely quick crawler, and I think that she simply won’t walk until she finds a real reason for doing it. Over the past couple of days, I have found myself holding my breath and watching like a hawk, moving toward the camera, as she stands up from sitting or doing the “downward dog” pose…and then sits back down.
Lately I have been thinking about a some funny things regarding milestones:
- If you are like me, you won’t remember how old your kids were when any of them happened
- Developmental achievements are often regarded by new parents as “tricks”
- After a landmark is reached, it will seem like your baby has been doing it forever
- Babies grow up and there is no stopping it
Friends ask me, “When did Lily start crawling? What was her first word? When did Vivienne get her first tooth? How old was she when you stopped swaddling her?” For the life of me, I can’t recall the answer to any of these off the top of my head. I can make general guesses in regards to Lily, but Vivienne’s first year is a complete blur. When I’m at the store I can barely remember the right size of diapers to buy!
Other moms are impressed that I keep up with baby books, first year calendars and journals for my kids. In truth, one of the only reasons I do this is to not forget all of the little details that made up my daughter’s lives when they were babies. Keeping track of things is a necessity that spans to every other part of my life; if I don’t write something down, I won’t remember it. Lily loves looking at pictures of herself as a baby and talking about her own milestones. Those snapshots in time make up the person she has become, which makes them all the more fun to look back at and remember.
Regardless of the extent to which your baby book is filled out (or if you even have one) doesn’t diminish the novelty of each milestone in real time. I think most parents get the urge to brag to anyone who will listen about the new thing their baby is doing that week, and compare their baby to every other baby they come in contact with. We just can’t stop ourselves from uttering sentences like, “My baby has been crawling since six months old” or “My baby started sleeping through the night the minute we brought her home from the hospital!” (Please note that the second phrase was not me – when I heard this, I responded with something like “oh, how nice for you” and turned away with only an ounce of jealousy, shunning that mom and her freak of nature baby). It doesn’t really matter what your baby is doing – but I guarantee you will want to shout it from the rooftops. Perhaps this stems from some competitive DNA strain that exists in all of us?
When Lily started lifting her head up/crawling/babbling, pretty much any time she would reach a milestone, my mother-in-law would say, “Well, yes, of course she’s doing that. She’s very advanced, you know.” This is the other DNA strain shared by all parents (and grandparents!) – the belief that our baby is the smartest/cutest/most awesomest baby to ever exist. Biologically, this makes sense. Something has to ensure that we’ll keep caring for our offspring in the middle of the night, when, let’s face it, things just aren’t so cute anymore.
The time warp that happens after you have a baby is strange when considering milestones. In the first year of my daughters lives, I felt trapped in this half torturous, half mesmerizing time frame. I was barely functioning due to sleep deprivation, but at the same time, getting to experience these fascinating leaps and bounds in development.
Having a baby really forces you to live in the present, so it can seem as if your baby has been doing what they are doing at this exact moment – forever. When Vivienne was six months old, a friend asked me how long she had been crawling a couple weeks after she started. “Oh, months!” I quickly replied, then after thinking for minute, realized that this would have meant that she started crawling at three months old, which she did not. I mean, she’s very advanced, you know, but she’s not a miracle worker. No wonder that friend looked at me so incredulously.
I don’t understand those parents who want to keep their kids babies forever. Sorry to break it to you, but that’s what they do. I discovered my husband crying while watching TV about a year after Lily was born. He explained that he saw a commercial montage of parents holding a little baby, then reading a bedtime story to that baby at five years old, then walking their 20-something “baby” down the aisle, etc. “She’s only a year old and already so big! I’m not ready for her to grow up!”he exclaimed.
Part of me totally understood, but thankfully, babies don’t become whiny kids and then bratty teens in the short span of a commercial break. Although time passes quickly, we really do have years to watch the changes take place. For the most part, I’ve found that each stage becomes more fun than the previous one. While I cherish and love being with my kids right now, I am also looking forward to the triumphs they have yet to accomplish.
Milestones – like taking first steps – really mean that my baby is starting to move in the direction of becoming her own little person. I cannot think of a better reason to shout from the rooftops.