Alternative toddler milestones that really make mamas proud
Fiona Roberton reflects on some of the more untraditional toddler milestones that mamas – and probably only mamas – would celebrate.
My husband and I were the first couple in our antenatal group to have our baby, even missing the final session as I had given birth the day before. However, that didn’t mean our daughter was the first to reach the traditional milestones that unfolded in the coming months. Kate wasn’t the first to eat solids, crawl, walk, or even go down a slide at the playground independently. As I grew to accept that she wouldn’t be the first to achieve certain things (and realised that ultimately, it didn’t matter) I reflected that there are many untraditional milestones that probably only we parents would celebrate. Here are mine.
Learning how to use ‘gentle hands’ with the cat
Our cat Felix was not the quickest to adjust to life with a small child. A cat’s food bowl is a sacred object that is best left alone, so when Kate was able to move enough to get to Felix’s bowl, grabbing his cat biscuits or jellymeat, he was very unimpressed. She also took a liking for pulling his tail and stalking him around the house in a way that made him decidedly unhappy. However, over a process of a few weeks, and with lots of coaching, ‘gentle hands’ became a reality and Kate learned to carefully pat him and (generally) to leave his food alone. I was very proud to oversee this quite rapid learning process.
Using fine motor skills
I think it was at the local library when Kate first tried drawing. The thing I particularly noticed was not her artistic talent, but rather her ability to hold a pen or pencil properly from an early age. I remember it not being until school that a teacher had shown me how to correctly hold a pen, but this was something that Kate seemed to have picked up almost by osmosis, so this made me doubly proud!
Climbing a playground ladder unassisted
Kate isn’t the biggest risk taker when it comes to physical challenges, so it took a while before she was confident enough to climb up and down playground equipment on her own. When it came to things like ladders she was particularly cautious, and I spent a bit of time standing behind her showing her where to put her feet and hands and encouraging her along the way. It felt like a big deal when she got on the ladder for the highest slide at our local playground and said “No mummy”, and gently pushed me away. I must admit it was me who was nervous, so I sat close by on a park bench watching her ably master her first solitary climb.
Peeling her own mandarin
After what must have been dozens, if not hundreds, of times watching my husband and I peel her mandarins, one day, my daughter asked if she could peel one. I passed her a mandarin and while she had some difficulty breaking the skin, if it was started for her she could remove the rest of the peel without much difficulty. Unfortunately she has gone off eating mandarins - but she still likes to peel them. My mandarin intake has therefore increased as I end up eating all the beautifully peeled but unwanted fruit!
Using the potty on her own
Kate and I are currently in the midst of toilet training so I can’t say she has reached that milestone yet. However there was one particularly amusing moment when she came running into the lounge past my husband and I to the bathroom and called out, “Doing a poo” (which is normal), followed by “No mummy” (which is not). I left her to it, and the next thing we heard was the scraping sound of the potty moving across the tiled floor, followed by silence. After a while I sent my husband to the bathroom and he confirmed that there was indeed a poo in the potty. I am still unsure how she managed to pull her trousers down and nappy off without assistance, but she did!
Fiona Roberton enjoys being involved in her local Playcentre, volunteering for Mary Potter Hospice and writing poetry. She lives in Wellington with her husband Pete and daughter Kate.