I wish I had a milestone sticker book for my tweenage sons tonight. You know, like the one you used to keep to mark all of Baby’s achievements worth noting, such as first smile, first tooth and first step. Because if I had a tween milestone book, I’d record something that few parents probably even note at all: the first unprompted, totally instinctive handshake. And it’s making me even prouder than all those silly stickers in both of my kids’ baby books combined.
It all seems so ridiculous now that I think about it. Why did I take the time to register in my kids’ baby books what was simply inevitable? First tooth? Well, of course they’re going to get a first tooth – and 19 more after that. First laugh, first solid foods, first doctor’s visit? Check. Check. Check. Even their first giggly bath with suds on their heads was virtually undeniable. (C’mon. We all have that photo.)
But only now do I realize that all that was the easy stuff, the things that happen regardless of what we do as parents, as long as we buy the bath bubbles. The uncertain, yet substantial milestones come later and in such a subtle way, you might miss them altogether, when really, you should celebrate them.
Today, I took the boys to our vacationing neighbors’ house to feed the fish and the cat. When we arrived, my neighbor’s father was in the kitchen, watering the plants.
Instead of scampering down to the basement to play with the cat, my sons stood behind me and watched me greet the man. Then – to my amazement – they each reached out their right arms and shook his hand, as though they were grown-ups at a dinner party, rather than boys who had just spent the afternoon chasing each other around the front yard with sticks.
And yet, I had not muttered, “Ahem,” while making a handshaking gesture. I didn’t even implore them to “Say ‘hi,’ boys.” I just stood there, slack-jawed, wondering when my giggly bath-time babies had turned into fine young men.
In that milestone of a moment, years of impromptu manners lessons finally paid off. The “Say bless you” when someone sneezed. The “Open the door for the nice lady” commands. The “Don’t push your brother into the mini-van” sighs. All that steadfast, relentless parenting came down one moment – one milestone that will carry them well into adulthood. Certainly, farther than their first teeth did.
When my husband got home from work, I told him the good news: Our sons had made their very first unsolicited handshakes, and with eye contact, even. And, just as the nights I told him about our sons’ first steps, he grinned with pride. This time, though, we both took a little of the credit. You know, before the boys started running around with sticks again.
Share, share: What do your kids do that surprises you?