When my boys were babies and toddlers, their milestones were pretty apparent. Sleeping through the night. First smile. First tooth. Rolling over, crawling, walking. Blatant and cherished reminders that our chubby, sticky little precious treasures were growing up.
The milestones continued. Learning the alphabet. Tying their own shoes. Learning the world is round, and the moon isn’t made of cheese.
Somewhere along the way, the milestones became less obvious. Goodnight kisses became fist-bumps. Matchbox cars got traded in for Nerf battle-axes. Old Navy commercials became a source of embarrassment because the pretty blonde girl makes my 9 year-old feel weird – in a way that makes him want to yank her ponytail and run away.
As my boys have grown, I’ve had to train myself to actively look for the milestones. Because as they’ve gotten older, their milestones aren’t as tangible as they used to be. There’s no more first locks of hair, no more first baby teeth, no more handprints from the first day of school. At 7 and 9 years old, the instances of tangible milestones are beginning to spread further and further apart.
So I keep an eagle-eye out for the hidden milestones, and tuck them away in my heart: Their awkward endeavors at humor. Attempts at bartering with me. The fact that they brush their teeth without being told. The way my second-born hunkers down at the dinner table, fighting like a man to overcome his issue with food textures. He hasn’t puked up his food in I don’t know how long. That’s a big milestone.
I’m with my kids 24-7. I very rarely find times when I’m not with them. That’s the nature of homeschooling, and for our family, it’s been a good thing. But since I’m with them non-stop, it’s so easy for me to sometimes want to tune them out. Forget to listen. Forget to look for milestones that are no longer blatant.
My daughter is three. There’s a noticeable difference between how I’ve tracked her progress, and how I’ve tracked her brothers’. But heck, I’m a different kind of parent than I was when they were her age. Much more relaxed. I have a better handle on what it is I’m doing as a momma. Part of me wants to feel guilty for how that sometimes translates – example: the pages of her baby book are mostly empty. Honestly, after moving a couple months ago, I’m not even sure where her baby book is.
And now we have a fourth kiddo on the way. It’s funny how my perspective has changed. I’ve become a baby minimalist. Give me some onesies, some diapers, a swaddling blanket, a nursing cover and I’m set. Will there be a baby book for this one?
When I look at the spectrum of ages in my sweet family, it forces me to realize a few things. I’ve got a lot going on. I’m not a perfect parent – not even close. There’s no way I’ll ever remember to write down every milestone. Some may even go completely unnoticed.
But when I catch them, I hold onto them tightly. Like tonight, when we played Pictionary with our 7 year old for the first time. Or when our 9 year-old said goodnight to us not with a kiss or a fist-bump, but by telling us to enjoy the beautiful full moon.
And then surprising us with a full moon of his own.
Heaven help us, the teenage years are coming. I can only imagine the kinds of milestones we’ll be facing then.