You always hear about the cute little milestones. First steps, first words, first tooth falling out, first haircut, first time going to school. These moments are supposed to be so magical, but I am going to be honest with you. All the little Hallmark milestones are nice but they have not elicited the biggest emotional responses out of me. Let me break down the real parenting milestones. The milestones that actually elicit the biggest emotional responses. Some good, some bad, but these are the important ones.
First Day without the Diaper Bag
More than any other day, this day brought a tear to my eye. The first time you can yell into the other room, “Hey boys, we gotta go” and then simply walk out of the house is the single most liberating moment of parenting. No more hoisting a 75 lb diaper bag onto your shoulder. No more checking their shoes. No more wondering if you restocked that bag with back-up underwear, wipes, flares, or snacks. No more wrestling the boys into the car seat. No more pinning down the flailing little monster with 17 layers of coats while you desperately try to fasten a 5-pt harness onto what looks like a writhing mini-Michelin Man. No more trudging into the snow looking like a Sherpa. The day when the time between announcing that it’s time to leave and putting the key in the ignition is under 37 minutes has been the greatest day of my parenting career.
“Dad, don’t put it into reverse until I buckle my own seat and you stop crying?”
“I’m sorry son. I’m just so happy.”
First time ordering off of Adult Menu
This one just sucks. “Dad, I don’t want a mini grilled-cheese with apple slices and a plastic cup of juice. I want the Bomb-Burger with fries and a Coke with refills!”
This milestone is not sad because you realize that your son is becoming a young man. There is no moment when you sadly look at the boy before you and see a pudgy little baby cramming Puffs and Cheerios into his mouth. You do not flash back to a tiny infant drinking 6 oz of milk, belching and falling into a bloated, post-meal coma.
What you see is your bill tripling. What you see is the waitress carrying away about a third of that Bomb-Burger because your little glutton power chugged 40 oz of carbonated sugar before the meal even showed up. You are sad because you know you are going to be eating out far less.
Obviously, when the kid starts using the toilet there are a million obvious pluses. Obviously, you are done with diapers. You are done with wiping stinky butts. The diaper bag shrinks or disappears. Your hands are not longer chafed from the constant washing after handling wet underwear. There is no longer that hint of “used-diaper” smell that has always lingered in your house.
Here is the real pay-off. You no longer shackled to a littler person’s excretory system.
“Dad, I need to use the potty.”
“Yup. Better do something about that. Hey, when you’re done, why don’t you grab me on of those Girl Scout Tagalongs on your way back?” Pure magic.
Yes, your child is growing up. Yes, this is a new level of independence. Maybe some people are even a little sad that the child no longer needs them quite as much.
But you get to have sex again! And foreplay does not involve the phrase, “Do you think they are asleep?” You do not have to sneak into each room to double check that they are deep into the REM phase of sleep. You do not have lock your door and set so many security cautions that even semi-sane Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible can not drop in.
True the ultra-erotic bedroom banter of “Wait..Shhh.. shhh.. be quiet! Do you hear Ben?” ends. You do have to live without my personal favorite, “Don’t move. I’m serious. DON’T MOVE! Maybe he’ll just flush, wash his hands and go right back to bed. Steady… steaaaaady.. I think he’s almost back in his room… Hooold.. Hooooold… I think he just closed his door…Hey! wake-up!” but it is so worth it.
I got my fist speeding ticket after dropping my boys off at their sleep-over.
First Time Watching Awesome Movies
I had no problem living through years of animated movies and TV shows when the biggest danger was that maybe, just maybe, Daisy wouldn’t be able to finish Goofy’s birthday before the surprise party. Will the Wiggles eat their fruit salad? Will the Imagination Movers finally not be able to brainstorm an idea to get Warehouse Mouse his cheese? Will a Higglytown Hero please just save the day! I’m fine with that.
However, it’s a very special day when you can sit down as a family and watch a Hobbit slog across Middle-Earth for over nine hours without fast-forwarding, editing or trying to explain that those forty arrows probably just tickled Baromir. No son, he’s dead. In fact, every time you ever see Sean Bean, you can just start preparing yourself that he’s going to die. Cows kill Sean Bean.
The expansion of movies that we can now watch produces sentimental, deep conversations such as…
“Dad, Aragon just chopped that orc’s head off! That was awesome. Why are you crying again?”
“Come here and hug your dad.”
I’m not stupid. My boys are not watching anything related to Westeros and I have limits, but being able to watch a show that we all enjoy is an incredible parenting milestone.
“Dad. Are the clones good or bad? I mean, they help the Jedi, but they will eventually be Stormtroopers and they are bad, so are they good, bad, or just do what they are told?”
“Sshhh, little one. Yoda is about to lay the hurt on Dooku. This is going to be awesome because for years I have carefully planned out the correct order to show you these movies so that when you eventually suffered through these prequels, you would find these next forty-five seconds amazing. Why?
Because I know what the important moments really are.”