If you’re anything like me, when your kids were little, you pored over all those child development books searching for signs that your baby was “advanced.”
“Did you hear that? She just said, ‘Ba ba ba!’ That’s a consonant sound! She’s making consonant sounds at five months and eighteen days and she’s not supposed to do that until she’s six months! She’s going to be President!”
Yes, it’s super-exciting the first time baby rolls over, sits up, or smiles without passing gas. We love these milestones. We buy special books filled with thick, fancy paper to record these milestones. We brag about them to family and friends and use them to one-up other parents.
Mom 1: I’m so excited! Little Joey just said his first word yesterday! He said “Cat!”
Mom 2: Isn’t that so sweet! Boy, it’s amazing how much more clearly my Billy speaks compared to Joey, isn’t it? And he’s so much bigger too! He must be twice his size.
Mom 1: Billy’s five-years-old.
Mom 2: But still.
I think there are several rather important milestones that the baby books overlook, but I bet moms around the world think back on them with fondness (or at least relief). For instance, can you remember the first time your child puked in the toilet? I know this was a big day for me. Instead of scrambling for a pot for my daughter to throw up in only to have my back sprayed with vomit as I was turning around, I got to see her get up and run to the bathroom. And she made it too. She made it.
Or what about the day that “helping clean up” goes from pouring gallons of water on the kitchen floor while mom’s not looking and mopping it up with all your clean bath towels to actually, you know, helping? We clock all those hours, taking twice as long as necessary to set the table or make cake batter just so we can teach them how. We console ourselves with the knowledge that one day, it will pay off. They’ll be able to do this for us, all on their own. They really, really will. And that day is magical, my friend. Pure magic.
As far as I know, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t say a word about how old a child should be when he or she achieves these under-celebrated milestones. Can we all come together and make a decision on this? Maybe there are at least a few we can agree on. For instance, how old should a child be when they finally get that if they feel the need to talk about their genitals in public, or point out a giant goiter on a stranger’s neck, they should at least whisper this top-tier important information to mom or dad. Five? Six? Twelve? (By the way, after my son’s last outburst in the mall parking lot, I’m ever so grateful that he thinks the word for a certain female body part is pronounced “pajama.”)
I’m happy to announce that today, one of my children reached my favorite milestone of all. Wiping her own butt. Sure, it was exciting when she first mastered her potty training. No more diapers! Yay! When she has to go, she’ll take herself to the toilet and do her business there. No need for mom to get involved. Right?
But every afternoon, around the same time, I’d get the same call from upstairs. “Mommy! Was it a big poopy?” (Don’t I lead a glamorous life?)
I’d trudge up there. “Good job, honey. Now lean forward.” I was still cleaning up her poop. This went on for years. She’s been potty-trained since she was two, and she’s five now. Since when do five-year-olds not know how to use something as simple as a tissue? We even have those flushable wet wipes. Easy peasy!
To put it in perspective, this is a child who can read chapter books, write stories without my help, make fresh pizza dough and sauce, get her brother his lunch, break a board with a tae kwon do chop and operate an iPhone. She started dressing herself at two, and she started buckling and unbuckling her own car seat at the age of three. And now, finally, blessedly, she can wipe her own butt. Maybe she will be president someday.