During pregnancy, we anxiously await our little squash’s first kicks. We stare at the screen during ultrasound appointments to catch the first glimpse of our little pea’s beating heart.
At birth we await that first cry. During those precious beginning days, we marvel at the way they learn to feed, cry for demands, even open their eyes. From the moment we pee on that stick, we await their first accomplishments.
As they get older, our kids’ milestones get more momentous as they become little people with genuinely amazing personalities. They learn to smile, coo, crawl, sit up, use a spoon, chew food, walk, talk, the list could fill the page. We document these achievements ad nauseam on social media sites so all of our friends from high school know our child can poop.
We brag to all the moms at the playground that our little love can eat peas, goes potty on the toilet, or has achieved the holy grail – sleeping through the night. We constantly want for our mini-me’s to meet their next big development mark so that we can be proud of them.
No one feat, however, for me, was more eagerly anticipated than my little Bugga ditching his crib and becoming a big boy.
Compared to others, my little love had fallen behind. I mean, after the age of one, the steady stream of giant braggables seem to slow. While I still noticed steps in his development every day, the biggies, like potty training and moving into a toddler bed, just weren’t happening.
Months passed and my little Bugga was turning three. He loved his crib. He didn’t see it as the prison some feel confined to. He didn’t attempt to escape, he didn’t beg to get out of it — in fact, he loved his sleep, 13 hours a night, with a two-hour nap (I know, pardon the brag). We were blessed with a kid who didn’t yearn for the freedom I so wanted him to want.
Strapped with guilt that we were babifying our eldest son, and due to the urging of family and friends, I decided the crib needed to go. What better timing than when we began potty training him. I was looking to be the envy of the playground — big boy bed and potty trained in three days. HA.
At first, my little love embraced his newest milestone. He grabbed his Handy Manny tool set and donned his construction hat as he helped daddy make his crib into his big boy bed. He gladly handed over his diapers to his little bro and pulled those “undywear” on with a sense of pride that I hadn’t seen since he decided to take his first steps. I beamed. I documented. I bragged.
He initially took to these changes the same way he takes to everything: acceptance with little complaining. But what I assumed would be something he’d love soon became his (and our) biggest nightmare.
If the jack-in-the-box nap times and the full hour it took to get our little gem to bed at night weren’t enough, within a few weeks, we were starting to really fail at potty training boot camp (which might have been the most devastating to my washing machine). The list of poor behaviors exhibited by our normally happy-go-lucky kid started alarming most of those who knew him.
It didn’t take long to realize my nugget was suffering. While he didn’t complain, all the signs I needed were screaming at me. His sudden mood swings, his exhaustion, his accidents. He was riddled with anxiety over being rushed into a rite of passage he didn’t ask for, and quite frankly wasn’t ready to handle.
So, I took a deep breath, looked the naysayers in the eye, and manned up for my little boy. Once again he donned his construction hat, grabbed his tool kit, and helped daddy reassemble his crib.
We didn’t move backward, we didn’t call him a baby, we didn’t bring back the diapers. I called it like it was: he liked his crib. He liked the comfort and safety it brought him at night. He liked the feeling of security it wrapped him in as he slept. It was his room. It was all he knew, and he wasn’t ready to give that up. And I told him, that was okay.
He went back to sleeping soundly. His behaviors returned to normal. He reestablished mastery in all things potty. He moved right along, continuing to meet each new milestone with boundless energy.
Our children achieve such astounding feats. In this act of pushing mine, I learned that it’s not about our bragging rights, it’s about theirs. And no matter how fast or slow, they all get to the imaginary finish line in this fictional race of childhood.
Like all proud parents, I continue to brag about Bugga’s accomplishments, but have stopped anxiously awaiting the next. I know he will get to them when he is ready, not a minute faster, and instead of wasting my precious moments waiting, I am restfully sleeping since he went back into his crib.