Milestones and Other Various Parenting Fails
"Wave goodbye!" I excitedly prompted my 16-month-old son. He stared blankly at the adoring grandparents in front of him. I lifted up his limp arm and made the waving motion. "See? Waving!" He pulled his arm away and stuck his fingers in his mouth like a big snob. I'm not sure what he has against waving; doesn't he know it's not a big deal? I just need the other people to see that he CAN do it. Maybe it's because he's not old fashioned. He doesn't do 'those old tricks' anymore. No, he is a child of the future! If I open up Snapchat he knows exactly what to do with the puppy filter to make the tongue stick out. He holds my phone, staring at himself, opening and closing his mouth like a pro; that's his big party trick. Waving is just one of the many, infuriating milestones we are greeted with as parents. I know, I know, milestones are there for a reason; to act as guideposts so we can best know how to help our children. However, most times I call bullshit.
My eldest was a milestone repellant. If he was 'supposed' to do something by a certain age, he made a point to wait another 3 months. I was always on the verge of calling for help; he's not walking yet? Call the pediatrician. Not enough speech compared to the other kids? Make an appointment with a speech pathologist. I soon realized that he was just fine and doing life on his own timeline. I now dread milestones and how they make parents comparative and judgemental. There is nothing as panic inducing as watching a child scale up a climbing gym, as agile and light as a freakish monkey to find out they are younger than your kid. Or, like that time my son was at the park playing with a little girl he had just met. "Let's play hide-and-seek!" she said. "I'll count, you hide." Well, that little girl correctly counted to thirty. THIRTY! On the way home that day I made my son count for an uneventful 15 minutes until I realized that 1) you can't force your child to learn and 2) I'm not a fun teacher.
Late this spring I had several friends tell me that it would probably be beneficial if your child knew how to spell their own name before they went to Kindergarten. I heard from other parents that most kids can do this in preschool. I ran to Chapters and bought all the letter books. I set up 'fun learning time' at home and he slowly spelled out his ABC's with a shaky hand while I stood by with a shaky heart. As the thick of summer approached I decided to forgo our daily learning time for other things like; spray parks, naps, popsicles, gardening and more naps. I felt relatively OK with it all until one day in mid-July when I realized he forgot how to sing his ABC's. I taught him that shit when he was 2! I remember feeling so proud that his tiny, squeaky little voice could pound out that song like a boss. Smug with pride, I'm sure I pinned that milestone proudly on my own shirt. How did I miss the fact that, without repetition, he would surely forget?
My son started Kindergarten this week. On day two I realized that I felt so, light - I recognized that I had been carrying around so much guilt. Guilt that I hadn't done enough crafts this past year, guilt that he didn't have more friends his own age, guilt that I wasn't better at instigating learning in our daily activities. Damn, why did I do that? Because you know what? He's fine - he loves school. He's not behind (and even if he was, kids are resilient - they catch up!) He will become an adult someday and I'm pretty certain he will be able to spell his name by then. He still can't count past 11 correctly, but he can name at least 11 people who love him. I am not ashamed of my failings anymore. I've spent enough time in the guilt corner.
PRO TIP: I've also concluded that as long as your children look adorable (read, beautiful mini clothing, like those from Shop The Skinny) than people love to pay attention to them and teach them things. That sounds terribly vain, but, let's face it - it's kinda true. The amount of free education they've received from light-hearted, friendly strangers because they look adorable is amazing. And gosh, does it ever take the pressure off me! I might start dressing them up and leaving them outside of say, Google Headquarters and just hope for the best.