Recently we went out for a friend's birthday. She happened to be holding my daughter, Penelope, when the cake came out, and this happened:
We didn't see this coming. It was not encouraged. She simply saw the cake, face-planted, and loved it so much she started eating it like corn on the cob. The kid was unstoppable.
What happened here is what I call a "milestone." Crawling? Walking? Feeding herself? Pffffffffffffft. Who needs any of that crap? She's perfected the hands-free face-plant into a cake well before her first birthday. I didn't get to show her how to do it, either; she just followed her instincts, which makes me so proud of her, it actually brings a tear to my eye.
As a mother, I hope she keeps this gusto for life and is never afraid to plunge head-first, without caring if things get messy, if she gets cake in her hair, gets caught in the rain or ruins her shoes. It is my duty to protect this piece of her personality, the one that makes her go for what she wants with total confidence and abandon. Not reckless abandon, but abandon all the same.
Just look at her go! And she doesn't even give a sh*t about our reactions! Mama wants some of that, and I don't mean the cake. These are the things that matter in life.
Because here's what I think of traditional milestones: f*ck them.
Oh, they almost made me crazy in the beginning. People told me that babies almost always roll from their front onto their back first, and that it is harder for them to go from back to front. Penelope went from back to front first, but took forever to go from front to back.
It seems she's always doing things in reverse, even from the start, so this isn't alarming. But when you are a new mom just getting your footing, this stuff can make you crazy -- if you let it.
Then there's the people who say things. Not the innocent, fun stuff you talk about with your friends and family. You know what I mean. It's this kind of stuff:
"My so-and-so was already walking by then!"
"Baby Margaret was feeding herself already at this age!"
"Baby so-and-so did our taxes this year!"
Woopty-freaking-do, proud parent. My baby will do that when she's ready. This is not the Olympics, people.
Looking up developmental milestones online is the equivalent of WebMDing yourself when you have a headache, and it's safe to say that no new mom should do it. Is your pediatrician happy at your baby's checkups? Good. Now, disregard comments like the ones above and remind yourself that no one's counting.
Also, remember that things like this do not need to be disclosed on resumes or college applications. "Social security number goes here, date of birth there... oh yes, and check here if you rolled over before 6 months, there if you did it after. Unless you walked before your first birthday. In that case, you can skip this entire silly process and move right into the Harvard dorms!"
I'm excited about everything I want to teach Penelope -- but at the same time, so pumped about what she's teaching me. She's teaching me that it's OK to eat the cake. That you can make memories when you are perfectly put together, but you can make even BETTER memories with cake on your forehead. That no one will get mad if you dive headfirst into life. And she can teach me all of this without worrying about traditional "milestones."
So let's make new milestones.
A milestone is the first time you realize that you are your child's only mother, meaning it's OK to smile, nod, and then disregard the "advice" coming from someone you love when it doesn't feel right to you. You can still love this person while disagreeing and honoring your own decisions.
A milestone is when your baby grabs that overpriced floral arrangement in Whole Foods and throws it to the floor in a fury, shattering the vase into a million pieces because apparently, she also thought it was ludicrous that they wanted $20 for that little thing. (This milestone is two-fold: YAY! She can grab things! And also, she is a smart shopper.)
A milestone is the first time you suppress the urge to send that woman at Target who wedged her way in between you and your stroller and then called your daughter a cute "little boy" flying through the air and crashing into rows of displays.
A milestone is your baby's first belly laugh. The first hug she gives. Squeals of happiness while splashing in the bathtub. Recognizing, and laughing at, her family on FaceTime.
A milestone is knowing when to step away from the computer before going crazy while researching schedules: feeding schedules, sleeping schedules, and, of course, freaking milestones.
No, it isn't the Olympics. But if you can stop yourself from getting caught up in "milestone" fever, and enjoy each moment without stressing about it, give yourself a gold medal.
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