One Saturday morning, I woke up and checked my phone. It was 8:45 am. “This can’t be right!” I thought. I tiptoed to their bedroom, alarmed. The room was empty. “Holy sh*t!” I whispered, “They’ve been kidnapped!”
Downstairs, I heard a creepy voice spelling, “B-L-I-P-P-I!” I rushed into the family room, where I found my daughters on the couch, quietly watching TV. A bag of half-eaten Cheez-Its sat on the kitchen table.
In that moment, I realized something miraculous. My older daughter has reached a milestone that I didn’t know existed, a milestone much more valuable than rolling, crawling, or walking: She found a show to watch while I slept in. For the first time in seven years, my morning was not dictated by the demands of a child. I woke up, on my own, to the sun streaming through my bedroom windows.
I felt sort of guilty, with the day half gone (because, let’s face it, 9am is basically lunchtime). But everything seemed a bit brighter, a bit happier. The days of dragging my ass out of bed at ungodly early hours to cater to the demands of a terroristic three-year-old were over. And no, I didn’t miss it, and I don’t wish I had cherished the time more. For f*ck’s sake, I missed my sleep.
The first two years of motherhood were saturated with milestones. I had an app that told me about each task my child would soon be accomplishing. There was much data to track and information to absorb: the number of wet diapers per day, ounces of milk consumed, and consecutive hours slept.
But around age two, the milestones petered out. Instead of monthly photos on a blanket with a braggy message about all of her new skills, I shared birthday pictures and eventually first and last day of school pictures. I didn’t realize there were still milestones to be met. And that these milestones had the potential to free me from the grip of my children. Rolling, crawling, and walking are so celebrated, but ultimately they just mean your kid is more mobile and at higher risk of killing themself. Be on high alert. Have less of a life, and keep your child alive.
But these new milestones, which no one ever told me about, are the opposite. With each one, my child is more independent, requiring less of my resources. She can get her own ice water, though the floor is covered in ice cubes and the water bottle cap often leaks. She can dress herself and put on her shoes. She doesn’t need my assistance in the bathroom. And hallelujah, she can get her own snacks and open 84% of them independently. And often, that means she can do stuff for her younger sister, too.
Milestones in our near future, I hope, include independently shampooing hair and brushing teeth, and going to bed without coming downstairs five billion times.
Then there are the true surprises, like the TV remote. Had I known about this joyous moment, I would have worked toward it with her, just like when I sprinkled puffs around the house to get her to crawl. Because the three extra hours of sleep on Saturdays are phenomenal.
When my daughter was one, my mother-in-law bought her a toy remote. Still in my mothering phase of knowing it all, I scoffed, “What are we encouraging here?” Well, now I understand. Had I spent more time training my daughter with the remote, I may have been able to sleep in before she turned seven.
Is this why my mother-in-law recently gave my daughter play baking supplies? Probably. Maybe with enough encouragement, I’ll walk downstairs at 10 am next Saturday, to my daughter cooking me breakfast. “Blippi” will be in the background, gushing about his love for blue and orange.
The milestones of the middle years don’t receive the publicity or the credit that they should. Yeah, we don’t get naps anymore, but my kids clear and wipe down the table after meals. I’m tempted to stick my daughter in the corner of the couch, like I did for her monthly baby photo shoots, and give her a letter board to hold: “I was 7 years 10 months old when I could use the remote on my own. Mommy slept 13 hours last night!”
We are transitioning from needy to independent. The milestones are still here, they just don’t follow a specific order. They reflect more the personalities and passions of our little humans, or perhaps, the values each specific family/parent holds. So I guess, the remote milestone reflects that my seven-year-old is passionate about TV. And I am too, if that means I can sleep in and wake up on my own time.
Laura Onstot writes to maintain her sanity after transitioning from a career as a research nurse to stay-at-home motherhood. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids binge-watch TV. She blogs at Nomad’s Land, or you can follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.