We talk a lot about milestones, when we have kids. Milestones and rites of passage. By 18 months, your baby should be able to… Baby’s first tooth, baby’s first step, first day of school, first girlfriend, driver’s permit…the list goes on and on and on. But those aren’t the real rites of passage. Those aren’t the real milestones.
When you look at your child, your baby, who you’ve held in your arms so many times, and you can see the man or woman they are becoming; that is the true milestone. That is the true measure of your child’s progress.
What we are charged with when we become parents isn’t simply to protect a helpless infant. It isn’t to stop bad things from happening to our children. From the moment a child comes in to our lives, our jobs are to be teachers, not wardens. We’re not here to keep our children from harm. We are here to give them the tools and the skills they will need to see them through…”it all”.
There is such a push for all of the firsts that the change – the growth and the learning themselves are forgotten. I watch my boys and I see joyful, thoughtful, intelligent souls. I see their bodies, able, capable, bendy and strong, running and leaping toward each new day. I see their tears of pain and frustration and it’s awesome.
I’m not saying the firsts aren’t important. Of course we should be excited for all the things our children can do that they couldn’t do before. But what makes the decision to break things off with a girlfriend – for the first time – any less poignant than the first time a baby rolls over?
We lose ourselves in our schedules – of trying to get the kids to their lessons and games and fitting our schedules into one another’s and making sure the linens are fresh and there’s food in the fridge and somewhere along the line we forget to just…sit back and watch. And be proud. It’s okay to be proud of yourself. It’s okay to be proud of your children. This isn’t the sort of pride that belittles others. This is the sort of pride that comes with an exhalation and a smile.
I want you to do this – and if you don’t have children of your own, borrow someone else’s for a little while – watch them and listen to them and let yourself be awed and amazed at all of the things that have brought them to the place they are. Think about the ways in which every person in their lives have added shape to the constantly-changing mind. How every interaction makes a little change in brain chemistry.
Sharing your life with another human is always challenging, whether that human is a lover, a parent, a friend, or a child. Relationships are elastic, dynamic. We ourselves are in constant flux. How the hell any of us survive is a bit of a mystery; add in trying to figure out how to relate to one another and honest to God every day is a work of fiction.
Between it all, though, in the quiet, still places, in the hushed moments you can steal, try and watch where each child is going. Try to see some different milestones. Think about *how* your kids are thinking instead of *what* they’re thinking about. It’s beautiful.