Saturday, June 16, 2012

Monumental Day

Having kids, I learned, is about milestones. As a new parent you sort of get forced into believing these landmarks are your be-and-end-all because every other book you read has a list of what your baby should be doing by now. Invariably your kid will NOT be doing one of the things on that list, and then you will feel the shame halo that is modern parenting. Well-meaning lactation consultants, doctors, and other mothers will reinforce the idea of this universal checklist by asking you constantly when and if your child has done X, Y, or Z.

That's all a load of shit, by the way. I'm not saying I can think of a better way to do it, but all of the comparing that happens between mommies because of those kind of lists is awful. The media has even turned the idea of attachment parenting (the non-listy way of raising a kid) into a competition. It's gross.

Addie walked late. Like, really late. She hated being on her stomach and so she wouldn't crawl, and then she wouldn't roll, and then she just didn't want to walk because she was happy to sit on a blanket and have people come talk to her, thankyouverymuch. Henry walked early, but didn't talk until what is considered very, very, very late. Instead he used a system of mmm!s and pointing to convey what he needed. His doctor sat me down when he was just a year old and told me I should have him tested for Autism. But he had an older sister who was a chatterbox and I'm convinced he just didn't feel like talking. Both of them did things early the other didn't do. Both of them are fine, and in fact, even if they wouldn't have turned out fine (I even hate that characterization) it wouldn't have changed the overwhelming, ineffable way I feel about them. The milestones were arbitrary.

By the time we had Henry I had made up my mind to let go of as much of the guilt as possible and trust my (and E's) instincts to love our monkeys and then do right by them. I think as a result Henry and I were both much happier when he was a baby. Since then our milestones have been less about development and more about the celebrations of gradual breakthroughs--degrees of our collective freedom. Or maybe freedom isn't the right word. We are celebrating do-it-yourself-ness. Success.

Having kids young is great in that it offers the promise of their being older while you're still (relatively) young. Each incremental step toward your kid doing things for him or herself is like a little preview of the freedom you get to have back. I feel younger right now than I did when I was in the necessary responsibility stage of parenting infants and toddlers. I'm more me, at least. I keep telling myself that when I'm in my 40's and both of my kids have graduated high school, I'll be glad we started so early.

These markers of freedom come on gradually. Often they surprise me. I remember with both babies the first time I got to sit at the table and eat a hot meal with everyone else (unencumbered by a hungry mouth attached to my body) felt like a miracle. When bottles went away, and pookies (pacifiers), it felt like we started to travel lighter. When we ditched the diapers for good and everyone could use a toilet reliably, we had a little celebration. Losing the diaper bag was fantastic. Then sleeping through the night or getting one of them in bed without having to put them back 45 times was an event. It took three years for Henry to do that. Homeboy was not sleeping for nuthin'.  My being able to pee, or bathe, alone, was a happy surprise for years.

I've been pleased for a long time that they could get themselves up and out of bed on the weekends and turn on the TV. But at 7 and 9 they still pretty much rely on me for morning support, or at least, food. I've been maintaining for a long time that the next big breakthrough is going to be when they're big enough to pour their own cereal and milk. With that success I'll have the option to sleep in again. I might not choose to use it, but I'll have the choice. There are sick days and tired days where that will really matter. I've been helping that along, sometimes, by pouring cereal the night before and placing two cups of milk in the fridge. But even that requires planning.

This morning I woke up at 8:30, which is late, late for me. The house was quiet. I rubbed my eyes and dragged myself out into the kitchen, wondering why I hadn't heard from anyone yet. I figured maybe Henry was sleeping in because he's sick. Addie is usually the later sleeper of the two.  But I walked out and each monkey was in his or her respective room, playing quietly. On the sink were two bowls of milk with leftover crumbs of Life cereal in them.

You guys, It happened. Addie got down two bowls, pulled out two spoons, poured cereal and then poured milk from the gallon jug and put it back in the fridge. ALL BY HERSELF.

We've reached Level II Cereal Mastery. *golf clap*

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