How to stop caring about milestones

My best friend’s son is just a month older than Eliza. We spend many mornings on the phone discussing the babies’ latest ear infections or up-all-night episodes.
One morning a few months ago, she remarked to me that her son could find his nose and clap. Two thoughts immediately raced through my mind:
“Eliza definitely can’t do that. Is that a development flaw?” and “Whatever. Second baby.”
Milestones are a big deal at any age, but we obsess over them when it comes to babies. We wonder if our kids are “normal” if they haven’t rolled over/walked/smiled/crawled/written a thesis yet.
I quickly learned with Monster to never look at the by-the-book milestones, especially the ridiculous ones that are broken down on a month-to-month basis. Don’t we have enough to worry about without being concerned that our 3-month-olds are not yet doing gymnastics?
I understand the medical need for certain milestones, but even those can be flawed. Doctors told my parents that my sister had a mental handicap because she was not progressing the way other kids did. Nearly 30 years later, she has a Master’s and no sign of any mental or physical handicap. She simply developed outside of “normal” parameters.
I propose we set different milestones that are not attached to a certain age. The moments we will forever cherish and kids can hit at any time without being labeled as “different.” Throw out the baby books and make your own list instead. Here are a few of mine:
-          The first time your child realizes that the rain is freaking awesome. Monster has always loved sitting in the garage on beach chairs and watching the rain fall. Recently, he asked me if I would go dance in it with him and sing the “Frozen” songs. We twirled and belted out “Let It Go” right there in our soggy driveway, and I loved every minute of it.

-          The moment your child stops trying to put everything in his or her mouth. I don’t remember when it happened with my son, but I am looking forward to it with my daughter. We have had way too many close calls. Again, I’m chalking this up to “second baby syndrome.”

-          When your child tries something you cook and actually likes it. Hands-down, just as miraculous as the day my kid was born.

-          The first “I love you.” Maybe they will say it with words, or maybe they will say it with a look. Not all kids can verbalize their emotions, but a parent knows when a child means it. And holy moly is it a great feeling.

-          When they feel bad about something they did. I do not relish in my child’s pain at all, but there is something satisfying about watching him recognize that he did something wrong. “OK, he is listening and actually getting it.” Monster gets this look – a half smirk and lowered eyes. Lord, I know that look is the one I’ll see well into his teenage years.

-          The moment they start “reading” a book to you. No, my son cannot read yet, but he has memorized almost all his books. Oh yeah, he knows if we skip a page. Don’t even try it.

-          Every little baby sound they make. Yes, every little one. That tiny creature grew from a tiny speck into a tiny person, and now that tiny person makes tiny sounds. Who cares if it is a burp or a coo? It’s all super cute and memorable in my book.
I could go on, but my favorite milestones will be different from the next parent’s. I can’t tell you exactly when Monster took his first steps or when Eliza cracked her first smile, but I will never forget that dance in the rain with my son, and I Miss E babbling in her crib in the mornings is pure music. I much prefer these milestones to the ones in the baby books.

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