Their first week. Their first smile. The first time they sit up. Their first taste of food. Their first tooth. The first time they crawl. Their first birthday. Life with a little one is full of milestones. That first year will see your baby go from a small, wrinkly thing that does nothing but feed, cry and shit to a much bigger thing, who although still does a lot of feeding, crying and shitting, is well on the way to hitting toddlerdom.
Quite rightly, us parents celebrate all of these little things – partly because we’re so relieved that we’ve kept them alive against all of the odds. You only have to scroll through Instagram to see photos of other people’s babies laying down on a monochrome rug with a strategically placed baby milestone card by their head proclaiming that they’ve reached the six month mark.
We’ve never used these milestone cards, mainly because we’d forget where we put them and end up having to pretend that the baby’s seventh smile is actually their first. Although other people wouldn’t know, we’d know. And the baby would know. It’d be a dark cloud that would forever cover our family. The guilt of our deception would eat away at our insides until we could take no more. Anyhoo…
I do find a lot of these milestone cards focus on the good side of parenting though. Where are the cards for first poonami when in public, first hit Daddy in the eye with piss during a nappy change, first shit in the bath or first projectile vomit which was delivered with such impetus that it hit the dog on the other side of the living room? These are the real firsts we want to see on social media.
For me, some of the best baby and toddler milestones actually happen after the first year. This is because the milestones bring a sense of usefulness and ability to actually help you out – power washing the decking, for instance! At no point can a baby turning from their back onto their front be described as ‘useful’ – particularly as it creates another job as you spend your time flipping them back over so that they don’t accidentally suffocate.
So, in no order whatsoever, here’s five alternative baby and toddler milestones that I think deserve to be celebrated. Maybe not their own special day, but a place on a milestone card at the very least:
1) Blowing Their Nose
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers always seem to have a cold. When I lovingly think about both of my kids, their cute little faces pop into my head – complete with a runny nose and a cough. I swear that as soon as they recover from one illness, they’re then hit with something else. This means I’m continually dealing with snot, bogies and mucus in some form.
So, imagine the jubilation when your kid learns to not only wipe the snot dripping down their face, but also to actually blow out and empty their nose! I think L was around 2.5 years old when this miraculous life skill happened and it’s still up there as one of her greatest achievements. Now, rather than having to deal with it myself, I can just instruct her to go off and blow her nose – and she does!
2) Cracking The Baby Proofing
Obviously, the point of baby proofing is to protect those little, prying hands from losing a finger with a sharp knife, drinking the bleach or discovering your secret chocolate stash. It may therefore sound slightly backwards, but it can actually be a good thing when your kid learns how to overcome the baby proofing.
“How?”, you may ask. Well, when things like baby gates and kitchen cupboard locks do what they’re designed for, your kid can’t get in or through them. So, who’s the numpty who always has to get up and open them? Yep, you, the parent.
Cries of “Daddy, can I have a drink?”, “Daddy, I need a wee”, “Daddy, I need a snack” etc all result in work for you. BUT, once your kid can crack the kitchen cupboard door or open the stairgate, they can basically take care of themselves. Both of these magnificent feats happened when L was around 3.5 years old.
3) Playing On Their Own In Their Bedroom
The nature of having a baby, then a toddler, means that they are always in close proximity. For the first few years of their lives, when they’re in your care, they’re unlikely to be out of your line-of-sight – and that includes when you’re on the bog.
But then they start to grow up. They want a bit more independence and you want to give them the chance to flourish, so they begin to play in their room unsupervised. I say “unsupervised”, but I swear I spend the entire time she’s in her room calling up to make sure she’s OK and also peeking up the stairs!
For us, this happened when we moved L from the nursery to her bedroom at around 3 years old. She still spends a lot of time with us playing in the living room, but will now go up to her bedroom to look at books, do some jigsaws and have a bit of chilled out time.
4) Getting Themselves Dressed
Dressing your baby is just another one of the thousands of daily tasks required in the line of parenting duty. Despite this, it’s a job fraught with danger and annoyance – as a newborn you worry that you’re going to accidentally pull a limb out of the socket, as a baby you have to deal with endless wiggling and rolling, and as a toddler you’re getting tantrums as you chase them around the bedroom.
So, when L decided that she wanted to start picking her clothes and getting herself dressed, I was all for it. As the months progressed, this went from things like putting on her own shoes and coat at two-years old through to independently getting dressed in the morning without me needing to ask about a year later.
Some days it might take 45 minutes to get her fully dressed, and yes, you may end up with some wacky outfit choices, but it’s all about teaching responsibility, individuality and character building!
5) Climbing Into Their Car Seat
This one is a game changer. For the first few years of their life, your child needs you to put them in and take them out of their car seat. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it can be a hassle – particularly as they get heavier and when you’re juggling multiple things at once.
Then, one magical day, you open the car door and your kid decides to try climbing into their car seat all on their own. Like some kind of vehicle-based soft play, you watch on as they proudly navigate their way onto their car seat via a combination of feet, knees and hands.
L has always been a climber and started doing this at around 1.5 years old. Since then, I tend to just open the car door and ask her to climb in. Not only does this save you the job of lifting them up yourself, but it also makes things so much easier logistically – particularly when contending with another baby, a pushchair and a load of bags. Brilliant!
So those are five of my favourite alternative baby and toddler milestones. Sound familiar? What would you add to the list? Let me know below!