7 Unexpected Childhood Moments to Remember

Family Matters on 11.23.12
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Photo: "Maia's First Peas," by Amanda Freeman

Before my daughter was born, I read parenting manuals like a good (slightly crazy) mom-to-be. I knew to look out for the milestones of American babyhood, noted below the baby book picture pouch: first tooth, first foods, haircut, words and steps. When they came, I felt underwhelmed. Cutting the first tooth was an awful, sleepless experience for both of us. Maia was hair growth challenged; my brother nicknamed her George Costanza. And though I was insanely excited for her first steps, videotaping and hooting like a crazed sports fan, the only way I could get her to walk for months was to dangle a cookie. Now that Maia is six and my stepkids are eleven and fourteen, I've come across some unexpected new milestones.

Here are seven milestones that took me by surprise:

1. Starting to have real conversations. Of course, I loved the first few words and grunts, but I loved it even more when my little girl started to make sense. First it was extensive stories about fairies, and now at six, Maia, gabs about horseback riding, and yes, first-grade crushes.

2. Riding a bike. I remember the feeling of freedom and balance on my banana seat, launching away from our house, swerving precariously. My mother still sports a scar after being dragged by my brother who failed to launch.  

3. Talking on the phone. Even at 8, my stepson, Chet, would answer the phone...long silence, ok, what?...yes, I am fine....one minute of silence...yes, bye. Now that he's 11, I smile across the room when I hear him gabbing to Grandma about his soccer tournament or calling one of his own friends about meeting up.

4. Using the computer. When Maia started computer class in kindergarten, all she wanted for Christmas was her own laptop (like her mom). Santa brought a pink, Disney model, but it was labor intensive (for me) when she used it. Then, about a month ago, I noticed she'd taken it out of her drawer and was using Google to make her Christmas list. Shock and fear.   

5. Reading and understanding. At first it's words and sounds and stringing them together. Then a few months ago, when I got up to go to the bathroom. I returned to find Maia reading from the book on my nightstand! "Mom, why is this lady saying the man might kill her?" she asked.     

6. Swimming (free of flotation devices). We've all heard the horror stories, so it's a relief for a parent to know their child can tread water unassisted. Chet had a phobia about swimming from age 6 to 9. Once I jumped in after him when he panicked and started flailing, gulping water. So it was incredibly rewarding these past few summers to watch him dive in voluntarily.

7. Feeling embarrassed by parents. Maia has always obsessively adored me (Who can blame her?), whispering, "I love you, mom," over and over, falling asleep on my chest. She tries to trap me into staying at her gymnastics classes and school functions. But I can feel things are shifting. Just the other day, Maia asked if she could walk to her bus stop by herself, because the older kids' parents don't come with them, and it's "kind of embarrassing." I couldn't stop smiling.

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