We’re sort of conditioned as parents to put a lot of weight into the traditional milestones: The first tooth and the first bite of solid food. First words, first steps, first day of school. And, yes, these are all great (although the week leading up to the first tooth isn’t particularly pleasant). But in the nearly nine years I’ve been a parent, I have discovered that much of the joy of parenthood comes from the lesser-celebrated milestones.
Reddit user u/HighOnPoker echoed this feeling in a post about what they refer to as the “unheralded milestones.”
When my son (now age 5.5 with a sister aged 2.5) first left the room and I didn’t go chasing after him, I realised that, too, was a milestone. Or even before then, when he was an infant and he purposefully used his hands accurately for the first time, instead of flailing about. Another unheralded milestone. Whenever I meet a new parent, I always mention these things, because it was such a surprise to me how overjoyed I could get at the sheer fact that my kid could leave the room and I didn’t have to chase after him for his safety.
I’ve had many of these moments myself. The first time my son told a joke I genuinely found funny (not just, “oh, I have to think that’s cute because you’re my kid”). The first time he ordered his own meal in a restaurant. The first time he completely dressed himself, poured his own glass of water and tied his own shoes, I swear there were fireworks going off all around us that only I could see.
I asked the Offspring Facebook Parenting Group if they had any favourite unheralded milestones, and they sure did. The milestones fell into two distinct categories.
Making your baby laugh is super fun and awesome. But when your kids develop a true sense of humour — one that often mirrors your own — it feels like such a parenting win.
“When he started using sarcasm properly. That made my day,” Gille says, “I remember thinking, ‘You’re one of us!’”
Sarcasm is funny, so are farts. “When she farted really loudly, paused for effect then burst out laughing,” Emilie says. “It was at that moment I realised I had a little comedian on my hands.”
Parents in our group really loved when their kids could finally belt out all the words to a favourite song or knew enough about offence and defence to cheer properly for their team.
It’s also a milestone when your child shows their first criminal tendencies, like Julie’s kid: “First (poorly executed) signature forgery. Like, dude. You are 6. Did you really think you were gonna nail it?”
Or when the swears started flowing, like they do in Holly’s home: “When she used swear words for the first time and already in proper context. She ran back and forth in the house with her purse and sunglasses and then said, ‘Dammit, I’m running late!’”
Perhaps the most satisfying milestones are those in which slowly but surely, one by one, our kids take over tasks for themselves. The first time you can trust them to walk their plate over to the dishwasher without dropping it or crashing into something? Take a moment to soak that in. It’s the first step toward turning over all dishwashing duties to your kid.
“I made my five- and seven-year-olds put their own clothes away completely for the first time and it was hands down the greatest moment of my life,” Ashley says.
Jacquelyn revelled in the moments when her son brushed his teeth for the first time, got in and out of the shower on his own and could safely play in the backyard by himself. Brian appreciated when both kids could get in the car and climb into their seats without assistance.
“This is not one I should brag about, but my son (4.5 years old) waking up, getting a snack and turning on the TV by himself so we can sleep in on Saturdays was a huge milestone,” Jenn says.
Oh, you should brag about that, Jenn. You should definitely brag.
So if you didn’t catch his first few steps on video (or they rudely took them while you were at work), and you’re not quite sure if she really said “dada” that one time, don’t worry. The truly great milestones are yet to come.