Reading Between the Milestones

I admit it. I did the unthinkable.

I checked the milestone charts.

There is surely someone charging rather huffily toward my front door as we speak, prepared to revoke my membership in the Laid Back Moms Club ™ along with all the benefits it entails. (YoBaby without judgment! Dora the Explorer presweetened cereal!) But alas, I could not help myself.

I was on babycenter checking out a few forgotten tips about newborn care when I snuck a click over to the toddler pages, just to see how my 23 month old might stack up next to her peers. Or if I am to be truly honest about this, to see in which ways specifically my geeeeeeenius 23 month old might be blowing her peers sky-high out of the water.

Oh come on, like you’ve never done it. (And then squealed out loud like a 13 year old girl when the results were to your liking.)

(And then started to call friends about it.)

(And then hung up realizing that it would not be one of your better ideas.)

I was delighted to learn that my daughter has an above average vocabulary, and can draw a straight line ahead of her time. She also gets an A in “exploration of genitals.”

Walking up stairs? Eh, not so good. Kicking a ball? Yeah, we’ll just skip that one. Did I mention she’s advanced in exploration of genitals?

See, that’s the great thing about looking up achievements that your kid is not supposed to be achieving anyway – you can arbitrarily dismiss any of them. It’s like shopping for milestones; you just return the ones that don’t seem to fit.

After my foray into this forbidden corner of the internet, I dug out Thalia’s somewhat neglected baby book from the bookcase with the intention of recording her great feats of intellectual excellence. When I opened to my lopsided notes traversing the unlined pages in back however, I was surprised that it wasn’t actually milestones at all I had been scribbling all these months.

Mostly, I had recorded things that made Nate and me laugh.

I found quirky memories like Thalia referring to a birthday cake as a “happy cake.” And that the “first song she composed” was a little ditty in which she banged on her toy piano while rocking back and forth Stevie Wonder style and chanting, Big Bird, Big Bird, Big Bird over and over. I read that Thalia’s first two-word phrases were “Oh, no!” “Oh, man!” and “Oh, my!” And that when she was first reciting animal sounds, she didn’t bark like a dog, but instead panted quickly in an imitation of our slobbery English bulldog.

None of these things were so much evidence that Thalia is a geeeeenius. Just proof that we were paying attention all these months. Evidence that Thalia is loved.

And they made me smile. Even more than the milestone chart.

Every baby lifts her head or takes a bath, or, eventually, recites the alphabet. It’s not that these things aren’t important or worthy of recording, but they’re not special, at least not to me. What’s special are the days in between those days, the firsts in between those firsts: The first high-five. The first painting you hang on the refrigerator. The first knock-knock joke.

That’s when I remembered why I wanted membership in the Laid-Back Moms Club™ in the first place, even if sometimes I can’t resist breaking the rules. I don’t want to be a prisoner of the milestones. I don’t want to give them too much power over me.

Just then, my newborn daughter who had been cradled on my chest all this time awoke. She craned her head to the right in an awkward, sleepy stretch, then straight up to face me. She met my eyes while holding her chin aloft for a good thirty seconds.

And I raced to the phone to call anyone I knew.


Care to read this again with fewer typos? Check out Time Out NY/Kids where Mom101 is cross-posted every Monday. And grateful thanks to Beth from Role Mommy for filling my shoes on TONY Kids for the past four weeks, and making them look mighty small in the process.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My seconds son's first two word phrase was "No way!" and every time he said I knew exactly what I sounded like on the phone. Yup, that was before internet, mommy bloggers, the whole thing. Yup, I am feeling old.

6/11/07, 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, and beautifully written.

6/11/07, 9:58 AM  
Blogger S said...

Heh. When I first started reading this, I assumed you were concerned about Sage's milestones.

And I kept thinking, "Isn't Sage too young to be hitting milestones?"

First meconium poop? The day the umbilical cord stump fell off? The night she slept for three and a half hours?

6/11/07, 10:04 AM  
Blogger Amy Jo said...

You should make a note in Thalia's book about the first time she demanded take-out sushi, too!

I confess, I too frequently check in with the developmental milestones for my 16 month old. Most of the time, though, it's because I'm so clueless. I'll see him doing something and wonder to myself, 'Gee, is he supposed to be doing that yet?' Then I have to look it up or else my eyeballs will explode from the uncertainty of it all!

6/11/07, 10:17 AM  
Blogger roni said...

wow! picking her head up for that long? is she a month yet?

i have empty baby books but one notebook where i would open up to any page and scrawl something my son said or did that was crazy/funny/etc. like when i bought a new nightgown and he told me i looked like a princess (tear). or when his first words were "dada" and "bob"

i'm bob.

6/11/07, 10:33 AM  
Blogger Paige said...

To be perfectly honest, I can't see the harm in checking milestones as long as you don't look at them as "must haves" or get upset by the amount of progress or lack of it. I think it's perfectly natural to be a bit curious about what other kids of the same age are up to. I also find milestone charts a great way to figure out what I need to next prepare myself for. :)

6/11/07, 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to read every month of What to Expect - The First Year diligently on the eve of the new month, to see what S had accomplished. Then I realized that he doesn't fit anywhere, as he had mastered some things that were months away in the book, but couldn't do other things (like hold up his head while on his tummy...he was a lazy boy) that he should have done months before. So I gave up, and now I'm happy as a peach when he does anything cute and funny - like play my piano and sing "da da da" along with it. Genius, I tell you. Genius.

6/11/07, 11:05 AM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Hey, my son just turned three and he is still really not that great at the ball kicking thing. But he can already read several words, can type short messages to his father on IM, and know more about how the music player on the laptop works than I do.

I assume he's just a clumsy geek, like me ;)

6/11/07, 11:34 AM  
Blogger Kendra said...

I know your post was made partly in fun. However, I found myself tearing up. All the cute little things that our children do will never be forgotten, but they just can't be recreated. It's wonderful to see my baby grow into a strong, healthy little girl, but it's sad that I will never get the chance to experience her baby-dum again.

6/11/07, 1:36 PM  
Blogger Never That Easy said...

Ball kicking is a ridiculously hard skill for little kids to master, usually. Plus, how often do you have to kick a ball?

I'm the same way though (only as an Auntie/part time caretaker): I take a lot of pictures, but sometimes forget to jot down "Likes Raffi songs - won't let you tie her shoe unless you're singing." And those are the things that are the best to remember.

6/11/07, 1:40 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Bossy likes typos. They make her feel so normal.

6/11/07, 3:17 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

I love your idea of a baby book!

I have to admit I used to read all those books with the milestones. And they just freaked me out so I stopped at about 20 months with my first child and never read them at all for my second!

6/11/07, 3:31 PM  
Blogger Gray Matter Matters said...

Hey! Great news! You can stop worrying about funding that 529 fund your accountant has been pushing on you! Scholarship, Baby!

6/11/07, 3:38 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Ball kicking is highly over-rated. I still don't do it well.

And I agree with a person above, the sushi thing should be in a baby book. That's fun stuff which I wish was in mine.

6/11/07, 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, the laid-back father's club has a far more stringent set of guidelines when it comes to laid back, so by their standards I will never match, however, for the Laid-Back Mother's Club, I think a "peek" at the milestones chart every now and again is fair, particularly for the reasons you mentioned. So long as you don't LIVE by the chart, your membership should be just fine.

6/11/07, 5:41 PM  
Blogger Movin Mom said...

I chuckle at the reciting of the alphabet you refer to. Having an 8th grader who also has a girlfriend I recently learned that he was telling his friends that he read that the "best kisser" does the alphabet via french kissing and that S is his favorite letter!!!! Hhhmmm, where does he fall in the milestones range.....is he advanced....or is he behind???? I am trying to understand why 8th grade seems WAAAAY to young to be having make out parties yet wasn't when i was that age.

6/11/07, 9:42 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I wish I had written down more of the crazy stuff Q did -- I guess it's easier now that she's talking.

Oh wait. THE BLOG. So that's what it's for?


6/11/07, 10:40 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

For the first three months, I carefully looked up the "What to Expect" milestones for toddlers, just like Sarah said above. Then things got a litte *busy* and by the time I found the book again, Q was already 18 months old. Ah well, he seems to be ok. Tai chi wasn't on the milestones list anyway. Either is licking power cords (stop that, kiddo!).

6/12/07, 1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's see how you feel about those "milestone" charts 18 years from now. trust me, NOTHING prepares you for where your "geeeeeenius" winds up -- despite your best efforts to keep her (or, in my case, him) on track. oy.

do i sound bitter? don't mind me, i'm just having a hard time today, what with my "above average" 6'6" 23 year old son still laying in bed while i work overtime to help pay for his therapy sessions.

kidding... i kid! (sort of) it's a proven fact that "milestone" charts for GIRLS are WAY more accurate than the ones concocted for boys. sigh. xoxo

6/12/07, 11:08 AM  
Blogger NG said...

And that is why we blog, isn't it? I only wish I had started when we asked my daughter, "What does a kitty say?" and she hissed.

6/12/07, 11:10 AM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

I used to looooove the milestone charts. Now they make me cry.

6/12/07, 11:56 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Hey! I've figured out exploration of genitals, too! Where does that put me on the developmental chart?

Way up there, I hope.

6/12/07, 12:17 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Genital exploration is a milestone?!?!? Wow; I saw my son pulling on his penis in utero. He must be ready for Mensa by now!

6/12/07, 2:41 PM  
Blogger wesleyjeanne said...

This is a wonderful post. Great writing.

6/12/07, 3:25 PM  
Blogger ~ Glo ~ said...

Milestones.... I took my 5 year old son to a doctor for a well check. Now, my son has always had a very large head, and he's strongly built, big frame, etc. The doctor checked him on the charts and said he was in the 95+ percentile for height and weight. That doctor didn't get that this meant he was proportioned for his large size. He was NOT overweight. But the doctor cautioned me about feeding him a healthy diet, never asking me what we already did which WAS healthy. And then at the end of the visit he offered my son a sucker! I never went back to that doctor!

Yup, gotta watch those charts.

Glo at "Let's talk about kids...and life"

6/12/07, 4:58 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

another really great post and wonderful insight! This is the sentiment that should be in the parenting books. "Can roll over", "pincer grasp"--big whup.

6/13/07, 12:08 AM  
Blogger mod*mom said...

lucky mama!
i feel so guilty about turning my daughter's baby blog into a blog where i have product giveaways + don't keep close track of her + talk about breast cancer more than her milestones the last year.

6/13/07, 1:50 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I can't wait till these moments come. My son is 7 1/2 months old now and does some cool stuff, but I can't wait to see what he'll say. Especially because I have his father on video saying "poop" to him over and over again...gee, I wonder what his first word will be?

6/14/07, 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Baby Names Dictionary said...

Of all the milestones, watching a baby taking those unsteady, wiggling first steps is perhaps the most memorable.

9/30/09, 10:13 AM  

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