Thursday, November 25, 2010 |

The Problem with Milestones

There's something I've been wanting to talk about for a while:  

Competition.  Milestones.  Feeling crappy or defensive when your child is "behind".  Feeling good and powerful when your child is "ahead".  Being driven by performance.  The parent contest.

Sam didn't walk until he was 15 months old.  He never crawled.  So, up until he walked (and "late", at that) his only movements were rolling.  This was one of the best things that happened to me as a parent.  I started learning (it's always a process, isn't it?) that IT DOESN'T MATTER.  We had our fair share of comments, mostly from well-meaning family members.  We were bombarded with questions like "are you worried?" and advice about how we shouldn't be worried.  The funny thing is, we weren't.  (I'm not sure why, really... I think it's only because the Holy Spirit had already started a work in me back then.)  I quickly learned that those comments usually reflected worry in the very people who were saying them, or indicated that they thought we should be worried.  Sam learned to walk at the exact right time for him.  His later walking didn't indicate poor parenting or defective genetics, and it was absolutely no reflection on Sam or his personality.  It did not mean that Kris and I were bad parents.

Here's another thing: our boys have both slept through the night at an early age.  But can I tell you a secret?  That is not any kind of proof that we're good parents.  It just means that sleep is something that we find important for our children, and we've tried to encourage them to learn how to sleep from infancy.  That's it.  It's just a style of parenting, that is neither right nor wrong.  It's just what we've chosen.  And we've had a lot of set-backs too.  It's not perfect.  

The same rules apply to how you choose to feed your baby, when they crawl or clap or sit up or talk or use the potty, what you put on their bum to catch their feces, how well behaved they are, what weight percentile they are in, when they learn their ABCs, and how well they do in school.  The list goes on.  T
he choices we make for our children don't determine how good of a parent we are or how much we love our children.  And like their parents, children will inevitably soar in some areas, and be "below average" in others. 

What I have learned, am still learning, and will continue to learn, is that it is not my children's job to make me feel good about myself.  That is a huge job to put on such little humans (or any human, for that matter).  And besides, it's a system that's doomed to fail.  Why?  Because some kids don't walk until they're 15 months, some are late talkers, some don't potty train until 3 years old, some have temper tantrums in front of their grandparents and say bad words...  Half of the time it might work out - when all the stars are aligned, and our children look perfect and perform perfectly.  But the other half of the time (or more than half, if you're normal), it doesn't work out.  

The best thing I am learning as a mother is to be filled up by my Father.  He's the only one who can do the job perfectly anyways.  And the best part about that?  It lets my kids off the hook.  It lets my husband off the hook.  It lets me off the hook.  Which all creates a whole lotta freedom for all of us to just be.  It allows my kids to fail.  It allows them to be who God is creating them to be.  And it allows me to allow them to fail.  You get the picture.  (It also allows me to allow myself some failures too.  Because let's face it - I screw this up a LOT.  I need a lot of grace in this area too.)

So - what's the most important milestone for children at any age?  To know they're loved.  To know their worth in God's eyes.  To know that, because their parents get their worth from their Heavenly Father, they have complete freedom to explore and discover and fail and succeed and make mistakes and be the exact person they were meant to be.  Without the huge job of also making us, their parents, feel good.  They should know that we are proud of them, accomplishments aside.  That we love them and like who they are even when they're the only kid in kindergarten who doesn't know how to spell their name.  To know that we love them especially in those situations.  

Those are the milestones that really matter.