My youngest turned 10 a couple of days ago, but this morning it really hit me. We have NO kids in the single digits anymore. Milestone unlocked. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s bittersweet– she’s our BABY, she’s not supposed to AGE!– but we all know how the days are short but the years are long already, don’t we?
Anyway, this got me to thinking about milestones. Raising kids comes with a bunch of obvious ones—potty training, driver’s license—but here are some slightly less obvious yet still completely grand milestones that make parenting worthwhile.
The Light-Packing Milestone. You hit this the day you go on a family outing and you only have maybe a backpack with snacks in it. No strollers, no diapers, not even a wipe. You might not even bother carrying hand sanitizer. And then the milestone-upon-milestone is when you go on a family outing and all you have is your own regular purse with your regular stuff in it, and if the kids want juice/water/snacks they carry them their own damn selves.
The All-Our-Kids-Can-Bathe-Themselves Milestone. No more assistance required for soaping up hair or directing the shower spray so it doesn’t drown them. You don’t even need to turn on the hot water so they don’t scald themselves. They do it all. AND they hang up their towel afterward.
The Feed-Themselves Milestone. Yesterday Cadillac and I went out for dinner, shouting, “We’re going out! Be good! Find something to eat!” as we darted out the door. And they did. And the angels sang.
The Get-Up-By-Yourself and Get-Ready-for-School-Solo milestone. The kids have alarms and they wake up and get ready. I think that the youngest only achieved this in the last two years. When I tell people about this milestone, they seem impressed. It took a lot of being on top of them before they did it, but once they get into a routine (bathroom-breakfast-get dressed-brush teeth) it’s pretty simple.
The Put-Yourself-to-Bed Milestone. I’m not just talking about not reading stories or singing songs anymore. It happens like this—you’re hanging out watching TV and not even paying attention to the time because this show is so good. Then your kid looks at the clock and knows it’s bedtime and says good-night and you feel like the biggest doofus parent ever because honestly you totally forgot about bedtime. But it’s quite a relief, to know that somehow, someway, this bit of responsibility sank into your child, even if you are personally a slacker.
The Do-All-Homework-Without-Intervention Milestone. Another one that takes most of elementary school to unlock. In first grade you’re practically doing the big projects for your kids, you have to hold their hand so much. Read a biography of George Washington and make a poster of him with illustrations? Huh? You have to show them how to break it down into chunks.
By fourth they’re mostly on their own (except for the Common Core math, which always requires ten emails to the teacher and a box of tissue shared between me and the kid). In middle school, I rarely intervene unless support is obviously needed or asked for. Why? Because I want them to be accountable, not me—in 6th they need help with some time management and planning, granted; but once they figure how to use a calendar and plan their projects, they receive the assignment and figure out how to execute it. If they fail in middle school, it’s not a huge life-changing deal—and they’ll have to face the consequences we impose. Has this happened to our kids? Yup. It happened one time and this kid did not enjoy the iron fist of oversight that descended, nor the lack of electronics. Ever after, the kid handled projects appropriately.
It’s better to let them fail in middle school and learn their lesson than it is to micromanage them all through high school so they fail out of college, doncha think? Besides, it’s a huge confidence booster for the kid to discover how his own hard work translates into achievement, and how he can overcome obstacles without parental intervention.
The I-Remembered-Sunblock Milestone. Another one that gets ground in via repetition. I notice that the teens always remember, and so do their friends. They get out the spray sunblock before getting in the pool. The ten year old does not.
The I-Saw-a-Full-Trashcan-and-Emptied-It Milestone. This one still hasn’t been fully unlocked. When will my kids see a full trashcan, a clean dishwasher, a basket of clean clothes and, of his or her own volition, take care of it? It’s happened, but not often. Well, I guess I don’t always take action when I see a full dishwasher, either, so maybe this is expecting too much (Cadillac: No, it isn’t. Me: If you stayed home you’d sing a different tune. There’s too MUCH to always do).