If you are a parent, then you’re well aware of the milestones of childhood. You notice most of them as they happen, you chronicle each and every event on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and then settle back to wait for the next milestone.
Do you freak out if a milestone has not been reached at the appropriate age? Or if your next-door neighbor’s baby walks 2 months before yours does, and that baby is younger than yours? Hands raised if you have ever called the pediatrician to find out why little Suzy hasn’t said her ABCs yet, and she’s 14 months old.
I have yet to meet a parent, myself included, that hasn’t worried about a specific milestone at some point in their child’s life. Some of my worries included thumb sucking, beginning to talk, and why the hell wasn’t my son losing his baby teeth when all the other kids were losing theirs and getting their names put on the big “I’ve Lost My First Tooth” bulletin board. In fact, he didn’t lose his first tooth until he was in 3rd grade and recognition on the bulletin board was a thing of the past. And we all survived.
As children get older, the milestones are not all universal. Though you may not know this from social media, not every child wins the spelling bee or has a trumpet solo in their first band concert.
Parents may again become hyper-vigilant as their child approaches puberty. Then there are those “firsts” that happen in high school (or even middle school) which teenagers pray their parents never discover.
My children are grown and in their 20s, and my youngest, Kyle, is 25. He hit a milestone that I only recently became aware of, even though the odds are good that it had happened much sooner than last week.
He has moved back to the same city where we live and has agreed to watch the dogs if we go out of town. In my mind, we paid for his college, supported him financially in other ways for the last 6 years, and it’s only fair that he is available for us, first and foremost. He stayed with the dogs for 2 weekends last month.
Our text conversation this past Thursday:
Me: Hi! Your next dog sitting opportunity is next week, Wed thru Sunday. 11/4-11/8. Are you still available?
In the interest of time, as in I needed to arrange kennel accommodations if he couldn’t do it, I called him on Saturday.
“So, are you going to be able to stay with the dogs next week?” I asked.
Kyle replied, “I’m not sure.”
“Um, what do you mean? Do you have plans?”
Stammering a bit, Kyle said, “No. [pause] It’s not really convenient. [pause] I just get home from work so late, and it’s not really fair to the dogs, and all my friends live 40 minutes away, and I’m late to work, and… “
And it was too soon after the last two times he had watched the dogs. I could not just assume that he will always be available because I want him to be.
When I hung up, it hit me. Kyle really is his own person, has his own life, and is… An ADULT! How did that happen? When did that happen? As a mom, I think that a feeling exists deep down that your children will always need you like they did when they were little. On the flip side, there is the feeling that your children will be beholden to you for all you sacrificed for them, and they will come at your beck and call. You have these “I’m the Mom” feelings even though you know that is not how life works.
Well! That really sucks. He will always be my baby. I wasn’t completely prepared to admit that he can take care of himself, stand up for himself, and live his own life.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.