Uncelebrated Milestones

MILESTONE: a significant point in development

How did the creators of baby books decide which milestones deserve to be identified with a date and which achievements should be tracked? They were clearly glass-half-full sorts who believed new parents should focus only on the charming – food instead of farts, sleep instead of slobber, babbling instead of blow-outs.

New parents stand camera in hand waiting for that first smile, but nobody grabs the camera for the first eye roll. Why not? Both express emotion. Both are clear, non-verbal feedback. Yet, only one makes it into the photo album.

We eagerly anticipate first words. We spend hours mouthing the syllables we want so desperately to hear and when, by chance, our offspring stumble on the magic combination of consonants and vowels we rejoice and claim them as our name. Mama. Dada. But, when rhyming sessions lead from animals that quack and vehicles built Ford tough to vulgar copulation slang, nobody celebrates.

When our toddlers reciprocate our frantic waiving or repeat our overly cheerful “bye-bye,” we beam. When our kindergartener mimics a one-finger salute or showcases our traffic jam vocab in front of Grandma, we cringe.

When our kids whisper in Santa’s ear for the first time, we smile.

When our kids ask “Is it really just you?” we frown.

This week, Son entered the kitchen without preamble and asked, “Is the Easter Bunny real or do parents just buy stuff for their kids?”

The way I was going to deal with this in my head (you know, before it was actually an issue) was different from how I dealt with it in the moment. In my head, I would just come right out with the truth. In my head, if kids are old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to hear the answer.

In my kitchen, however, I stammered. I wasn’t willing to lie or squander my credibility on a fictional rabbit.  I surprised myself by being equally unwilling to be the one to confirm the truth.  So, I punted and answered his question with a question.

“What do you think?”

“I think it’s the parents,” he said casually before leaving the kitchen.

In my mind, the realization that the magic and mystery was really all just post bedtime shenanigans by his parents would be sad for him. But, instead he took it all in stride, as if he had suspected for quite some time that it was all too good to be true.

Son emerges from this latest milestone unscathed while I grieve the loss of innocence and wonder.

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