Milestones

milestones  plural of mile·stone (Noun)

Noun
  1. A stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.
  2. An action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

The nurse looked down at her clipboard while I got my one-year-old daughter dressed.

“Does she wave bye-bye?”

I fed my child’s arms through the onesie and shook my head.

“Does she say four other words besides ‘mama’ and ‘dada’?”

Again, I shook my head.

“Does she repeat animal sounds?”

My pulse thumped in my ears. I folded up the bottoms of my daughter’s jeggings and cleared my throat. “No,” I said.

“Does she walk?”

“With help,” I said. “She holds our fingers.”

The nurse checked something off. Her expression, as always, remained neutral.

The barrage of questions continued; my panic increased with each one that I could not answer positively: “Does she hit blocks together?” (“No, we don’t have blocks,” I babbled, “but she does hit rings together.”) “Does she pull herself up to furniture?” (“No, the coffee table’s too tall.”)

Then, mercifully: “Does she drink from a cup?”

The room’s cold tile pattern blurred. “Yes,” I whispered. “She does that well.”

The nurse stood. “The doctor will be right in,” she said.

The examining room door clicked shut. I pressed my daughter against my pounding chest. She pushed away and studied my wet eyes with the same intensity since was newly born. Then she grinned and fiddled with the zipper of my shirt, blessedly oblivious.

On Thursday, a woman came to our house with a black bag filled with paperwork and two sets of primary-colored containers that stacked together like nesting dolls. The woman sat on the couch; I sat beside her with my daughter in my lap, who kept leaning toward the woman and wrinkling her nose in her favorite “nice to meet you” expression.

“Isn’t she friendly!” the woman exclaimed.

“Yes,” I said. “She’s a social bug.” My daughter immediately wanted down. She held onto the coffee table and inched over to the toys sitting on top of it.

The woman asked more questions. I continued answering them while getting out the piano walker, so my daughter could push it across the floor.

“She’s really doing well,” she said, watching my daughter lean over the walker and pound the keys in front. “We see two year olds who can only scoot.”

The initial evaluation was completed fifteen minutes later. I signed a stack of paperwork, so another woman could come back the following week and do another evaluation.

“This won’t—” I paused and stared down at my signature. “This won’t follow her in high school or anything, will it?”

The woman said, “No. The evaluation will just help you understand her strengths and weaknesses, and if she’s 25% behind in two areas or 40% behind in one, we can work with her accordingly.” She smiled. “Only if you want us to, of course.”

I nodded. The woman restacked the toys that my daughter had strewn and tucked them into her bag. I followed her outside and held the collar of our dog, so she wouldn’t trip the woman on the way to her car. I watched the vehicle crackle down our long, flat lane. Then I held my daughter’s dimpled hand and helped her wave bye-bye.

Yesterday, my husband and I were checking out groceries for our Easter picnic when I turned and saw two middle-aged women with special needs, whose assistant was helping them unload hot pockets, corn dogs, and frozen waffles from the cart on to the counter’s conveyor belt. The one woman had fine brown bangs and purple-rimmed glasses. The other one, the taller one, smiled at her friend, and I saw a perfect dimple in her left cheek.

They were girls out at Kroger on Good Friday. They were somebody’s daughters. A mother had conceived and carried them. She had cradled her stomach and pictured the beauty unfurling beneath her fingertips. She had howled into a pillowcase as a dark head crowned and the force of her own body ushered life into the world. She had rocked them at night, cooled their fevers with tepid baths as they cried. She had read books and changed diapers and loved and worried and prayed and rejoiced over every milestone, even if they weren’t found on developmental charts.

I wanted to hug those mothers; I wanted to hug those daughters as my very own.

This morning, waiting for my daughter to take a nap so I could start Saturday chores, I sprawled on the rug beside the crib. My daughter thrust her hand through the slats. She starfished her fingers in and out to let me know that she wanted them held.

See that? I thought. See how she can get her needs met?

And you should see how gently she runs her fingers through my hair so that she doesn’t tangle the strands.

You should see how she claps her hands whenever we say, “Yeah!” or “Good job!”

You should hear her laugh when she sees that I’m taking grapes from the fridge.

You should see her play “peek-a-boo” with her cousin or giggle as he zips her around in her scooter.

She’s perfect, I thought. She’s my child, and so she is absolutely perfect.

My daughter let go of my hand and pushed down the bumper. I could just see her sparkling brown eyes above the embroidered birds. “Mama,” she said. “Mama.”

“Yes, Baby,” I said. “Mama’s right here.”

 

What was the hardest “milestone” that you’ve faced as a parent? Do you believe that developmental milestones are helpful, harmful, or a mixture of both?


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Comments

  1. I love the image of her starfish hand reaching for you!
    My two were completely different from each other – and yeah :D they were (and are) perfect, too. But I often found myself worrying if they were ‘where they should be’. All for nothing, as it turns out.

    • It is nice to hear from mothers about these “milestones”, which help me to remember that babies develop differently. Thank you, Cynthia! : )

  2. I know the feeling. With Lily and my nephew being only five days apart I was constantly comparing them. I have learned to let go this pass year. But now I feel like I am doing it again with Jack with having a couple of friends who had their babies around the same time as me. Thanks for sharing this beautiful insight as Jack is getting help as well. : )

    • Aw, I’m so glad this let you know that you’re not alone, Missy. I debated if I should write this post or not (in order to protect my daughter), but then I realized that we are surely not the only parents going through these milestone fears. Hugs to your sweet family!

  3. This is so perfectly honest, Jolina. I love this post.

    To answer your question, I think that milestones are a mixed blessing. It’s great that so much medical advancements are around to physically and emotionally help our kids. But it also makes parents hyper-worried when their kids falls behind the AVERAGE time blocks for when things “should” happen.

  4. What a beautiful reminder of the power of a mother’s love. If my children weren’t of the four-legged variety, I’m pretty sure I’d drive myself nuts with “milestones” – even knowing, intellectually, that every child develops on his/her own timeline. Such a gorgeously written piece.

  5. I definitely struggle with being a relaxed parent, so that doesn’t help these milestone matters. Though my husband agrees that we should allow our daughter to get a few more evaluations, he really isn’t concerned. This helps balance me! : )

  6. Stephanie Broene says:

    Such beautiful words, Jolina. Very touching to me, especially since I’m right behind you in this motherhood journey! While I understand why milestones can be helpful, I do wonder if they foster our society’s obsession with comparing ourselves to the person next to us.

    • Yes, you are right behind me, girl! And what an amazaing journey motherhood is. So blessed to have such a supportive band of women around me! :)

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