Watching your baby scrunch up their face while tasting veggie puree for the first time is adorable, and seeing the sense of accomplishment they feel after taking their first steps is one for the books. These major developmental baby and kid milestones are undeniably life-changing and kick off new stages of childhood. But there are so many milestones in between the big ones that vastly improve our daily lives as parents.
Potty training is awesome, but have you ever had your kid go poop and actually wipe themselves? Starting solids rocks, but have you ever prepared a meal that your whole family willingly eats? And if you’ve recently set out on a road trip in a car bursting with gear and toys, you can’t imagine what a gift it’ll be when each kid only needs a bag of clothes and couple of books or toys.
It’s not that we’re wishing away the younger years, because they go by so quickly and there’s a lot to love about our weirdos when they’re little. But parenting really young kids is so hard, so why not look for a few extra excuses to celebrate the little wins? You deserve it!
They are the paci captain now
It’s such a tease for newborn babies that they literally have a love affair with their pacis but can’t get them back in when they fall out. It’s pure Montague and Capulet (why must their tiny useless hands keep them apart?!). Hence the blood-curdling screams in the middle of the night (and all hours of the day), each requiring a two-second pop of the paci back in their mouth. It’s relentless! Getting to the point where they can replace their own pacifier is an absolute game-changer. And if you’ve ever scattered two-dozen pacis around your baby’s crib, you know that this is really a two-part milestone—because even more than being able to replace their paci, they have to find it, too.
They wipe their own butts
There’s a time in every parent’s life where something sinister lurks behind every door and you’re acutely aware that it can strike at any moment. ‘What is it?!’ you ask? A kid in downward dog shaking their dirty butt while they wait for any willing adult to wipe it. Are you mid-dinner? No problem. Doing a bit of rage vacuuming? They’ll find you. Ditching the diapers is amazing, and potty training is well worth its weight in poonamis, but what the books don’t tell you is that you’ll still be wiping your kid’s ass for at least another year or two. And then one day, they’ll go to use the bathroom (right in the middle of dinner, most likely) and you’ll try to shovel as much food into your mouth as possible before getting the call, but then you’ll hear the toilet flush and the washing of hands and they’ll come out fully clothed. And you’ll freak out because there’s no way they wiped thoroughly. But after a few racing stripes and wiping tutorials, you’ll reach that blessed time where they’re fully wiping themselves—no ifs, ands or butts about it.
(Note: Dumping your last turd out of the potty into the toilet is also a huge turning point, though you won’t realize at the time.)
They can do their own thing at the park
The park offers zero chill to parents of swing-loving toddlers and preschoolers who like to climb the most dangerous parts of the play structure. Like me, you’ve probably gazed longingly at the moms and dads of older kids who park themselves on a bench and scroll Instagram mindlessly, at least in controlled spurts. When does this kind of freedom actually happen? Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to help my son fight the Death Star from the slide or watch my daughter squeal in delight as I push her on the swing, but sometimes mama just wants to sit. Hard.
They actually eat the food you make
“I don’t like the green stuff.”
“It’s too spicy.”
“The foods are touching each other, ewwww.”
Hear that? Soak it all in. It’s the symphony of your children rejecting another meal. When it comes to food, kids really keep us on our toes. One day spaghetti bolognese is the most delicious food they’ve ever had, and the next it’s literal poison garbage they wouldn’t serve to their worst enemy. It’s a fun guessing game! But eventually, their penchant for beige fades and they’re more willing to try new things (my kids like to try new things only when they’ve long finished their beige meals and the foods are on my plate, and I’m trying to eat them. LOL). Then, you develop a roster of recipes that work for your entire brood, and before you know it you’re having a civilized family-style supper where no one is saying “gross,” “yuck” or “I want cereal.” Pop that Champagne!
(Note: You may have already toasted another milestone by the time you get here—having a civilized, tear-free meal in a restaurant where there’s a dish that everyone likes and no one ends up thrashing around on the floor.)
They entertain themselves until you wake up
How many times have you been suddenly roused from a highly enjoyable mildly sexual dream at 5:30 a.m. to find a kid standing beside your bed instructing you to wake the eff up? Unless your kids are sleep unicorns (bless them), the answer is probably countless. Little kids need their parents for everything: water, breakfast, entertainment. Even if you’re cool with throwing on a little Paw Patrol and catching some more ZZZs, you still have to get out of bed, stumble to the family room and turn the TV on for them. Eventually, though, you’ll be cut out of the equation, waking at your leisure to find your kids busy and fed, and it. will. be. glorious.
(Note: This goes hand in hand with the time your kids are able to fetch their own snacks and water at any time of day, which is also a bona fide game changer—though it will take a bit of time to stop hearing phantom “WATER!” calls.)
Car trips without all the gear
There is no puzzle more brain-bending than fitting all of your belongings into the trunk of your car when you’re heading on a road trip with small kids. It’s the adult game of Tetris that no one asked for ever—now with more odd and impossibly shaped pieces! When you have littles, especially as a new parents, not having all their creature comforts can destroy a vacation. So yes, you do need multiple bouncy chair options and no, you won’t whittle down the laundry basket full of books and toys you’re trying to cram in with suitcases, stuffies, snacks and more snacks. Can you even imagine everyone packing their own single suitcase and laying them down neatly in the trunk? Dreams.
They can do up their own car seat straps
Car seats are a source of so much frustration and anxiety, from your baby who wails for the entirety of car rides to toddlers who use them as food repositories and kids who demand one parent over the other or complain that the straps are TOO TIGHT (they aren’t). And through all this, there’s the constant buckling and unbuckling, tightening and loosening of multiple five-point harnesses day after day after day. It can drive you wild. But once your kindergartener or first grader moves into a booster seat, they can finally climb in and buckle themselves with a good old-fashioned seat belt, while you enjoy one minute of quiet solitude in the front seat. You’ll be feeling so good about it you’ll take everyone to the McDonalds drive thru, like the fun mom that you are!
They throw up in the toilet
Not in their bed, not on the floor and not even beside the toilet—we’re talking right in the bowl! A kiddie hole in one. Anyone with easy pukers knows that on top of feeling so sad for your uncomfortable kid, you’re also dealing with some of the toughest cleaning jobs of your life, often in the middle of the night. Nothing wakes you faster than being torn from your cozy bed by the sound of wretching and finding a big old pile of barf in the middle of your kid’s carpet. Once they get older and learn to identify the feeling of vomit in the wings, they’re usually able to swiftly make it to the bathroom and kneel over the toilet in time for a clean delivery. Mazel Tov!