On milestones and metrics
I entered motherhood without a clue about what age children did what. Were they crawling by one? Counting by… four? Most importantly, when could we discuss ballerinas? “So what is your baby up to these days?” I’d ask by way of opening conversation, ready to be amazed no matter what the answer was.
Apparently, I’m not much more informed these days. I’ve been calling my daughter a “toddler” since she could wobble on two legs, but it turns out there’s a specific age when she reaches the distinction: 18 months, which she celebrated in June.
(Now, when can we stop counting in months? Because my math skills at 32 aren’t so hot either.)
I have so far avoided writing about specific milestones in babyhood. I was raised to believe there’s nothing more boring than bragging about your kids. I also don’t want to make anyone feel bad.
From her first word, we noticed new skills had the capacity to make other parents feel insecure, just like we had anxiously watched babies her age achieving things before she did. For first-timers, each milestone is also a metric by which we can compare. Even during COVID, when it should have been easier than ever to keep your eyes on your own paper, we would frantically Google the range for certain behaviors when someone else would post or share what their baby, within striking distance of ours, could do.
At best, this is silly. At worst, exclusionary and ableist.
Development aside, 18 months seems different. The official crossover from babyhood. The end of one stage and the beginning of something new.
With her sturdiness, independence, and increasing demands — followed swiftly by stages of extreme clinginess — this was not some daylong graduation, where all the clocks flipped over at the same time. But it still means something to me, a time to pause and reflect, perhaps to grieve.
We recently ended our breastfeeding journey, shockingly late to some (another area of potential gamesmanship in terms of who can or can’t, and for how long), and a milestone I’d dreaded. I was terrified we would feel less physically close, that she would hold it against me. But after a few days of asking for it, she seems to have forgotten the habit we both loved while it lasted, and thankfully still wants to snuggle.
So far, I hadn’t been one to lament that my baby spent her first year(s) under COVID, either. A friend described her son missing out on normal life during babyhood as a heartbreak from which she might never recover — but, with Julia only now showing a slight interest in other kids (and definitely not in sharing), I’ve felt lucky that her social progress is happening in time with lifted restrictions. The strange and lonely transformation into motherhood during COVID described by some mothers didn’t resonate with me. I felt grateful for the extra time and flexibility I’ve had to be with her instead.
That is, until I saw other new babies getting to meet their extended family and friends, entire photo galleries of each relative holding them. Perhaps it always would have been this way due to distance, but the people I love who she has yet to meet will have never known her as a baby.
I’m not the type to spend a lot of time wishing my daughter would stay the same age. When I was growing up, I often felt guilty about getting older: Each year was another threshold into womanhood, with all of its attendant complications, snares, and double standards, that I could not go back through. Each year felt more complicated, where girlhood had been simple, a place I could be myself.
I won’t foist that pressure on her. And I find each age she reaches to be more and more fun.
After all, I’m learning new things too. I’ve been gaining wisdom from more seasoned parents. Mothers of two or more are so much more chill — they’ve already seen firsthand how different children, raised the same way, can be when it comes to reaching milestones. They know to cheer whatever comes, not compare and despair.
I know it is a gift that she is getting older.
Watching my daughter grow reminds me that childhood is not a race. It is better to slow down and savor where we are right now. There are seasons for everything.
Speaking of measurements, my sweet husband had “Apocalypse Wow” T-shirts made after I joked about merch. If you’d like one, let me know your size and how to get it to you.