There I was, tidying up, ironing clothes and cleaning our house. As I did so, my mind wandered to all those parenting milestones us parents go through: Pregnancy, birth, baptism, first day at nursery, first day at school and so on.
What, I thought, about those other milestones? Milestones we all experience but don’t talk about because, you know, they won’t necessarily reflect well on your parenting skills?
Here are a few I have come up with. Please do have a read and, if you have a few moments, add you own examples at the end.
The first time your kid out-techs you
I make a point of keeping with modern tech. I may not be perfect, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that technology moves at a rapid pace and you either accept, adapt and change or you will end up on the wrong side of the digital divide. Even so, my kids are still capable of surprising me with their tech skills.
If you ever receive a text message from me these days, it’s likely to arrive with some kind of special laser or firework effect. If you’re particularly lucky, it may have love hearts floating up across the screen.
It’s simply too tempting and dare I say it, fun, to send messages this way. Truth is, I wouldn’t know how to do it if Helen hadn’t shown me. I don’t know how, but kids seem to have an innate way to figure out the fun ways of using tech.
The first time you lose a child in public
Thankfully this has only happened to me once. I can still remember it vividly.
I was in a line, waiting to pay in a massive B&Q warehouse store. Both Helen and Izzy were with me. For some unfathomable reason, Izzy suddenly left my side and just ran off, up an aisle that was about the size of an airport runway.
I wasn’t in a position to run after her immediately as I was laden down with shopping. Without thinking about it, I did the worst thing I possibly could have done. Yes, I sent Helen, her older sister to bring her back. The result: Two lost children running around a massive B&Q warehouse store.
The whole saga must have been over in about two minutes, but I was panic-stricken. I was just at the point where I had asked B&Q staff for help when both kids turned up. The full story is here if you want to read it.
On a different occasion, I went to the beach with two other parents, we’ll call them Jack and Jill, and their respective kids. We visited Camber Sands in Sussex which is a massive and very popular beach with loads of sand dunes, ideal for getting lost in.
Jack’s daughter went missing on that beach. Jack and I went one way looking for her, but she’d gone off in completely the opposite direction.
After about 15 minutes, during which Jack’s blood pressure reached record-breaking levels, his daughter returned. She was perfectly happy and completely oblivious to the panic us adults were experiencing. I don’t mind admitting I never want to experience anything like this again, be it in a B&Q warehouse, a beach or elsewhere.
The first article of school uniform to go missing
To be honest, this is more of an annual event. How many days into the autumn term will it be before one of the kids loses something? Will it be a week? Maybe a fortnight? Perhaps a month?
We’re 10 days into the new academic year and Helen has already lost a school tie. I happened to comment about this on twitter and numerous other parents responded.
Their kids has seriously outdone Helen by losing pencil cases, jumpers, PE kit….all within a few days after the start of term. A missing tie seemed quite insignificant in comparison. Even so, I felt a certain solidarity with my twitter chums. It seems us mums and dads are resigned to the fact something is going to go missing and it’ll happen early in the school year. It’s simply a case of how early.
The first bereavement
Forgive me, I am going to get serious for a moment. I had to deal with this earlier in the year when Mrs Adams’ father passed away.
With her father ill and in hospital, Mrs Adams spent several days in Scotland with her family, while I remained in England with the kids. Understandably, Helen missed her mum and so I let her use my phone so they could send each other text messages.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. While it seemed like a nice thing to do, I should have kept my phone right out of reach.
When the sadly inevitable message came through telling me the unfortunate news of my father in law’s passing (it was expected), I just so happened to have my hands in the sink doing some washing up. Hearing a ping signaling that a message had arrived, Helen raced to my phone and read the message before I could stop her.
Needless to say, I had planned to sit the kids down and pass on the news in a sensitive way. As a result of my own lack of foresight, Helen read the message and was understandably very upset.
Word of advice; there are times you should keep that phone of yours right out of reach of young hands. That was one such occasion and it was definite low point for me as a father. Learn from my mistake people, learn from my mistake.
The first time an older sibling doesn’t want to play with a younger one
Helen and Izzy have generally always got on very well. They usually play very nicely together but I’m seeing a change, something that was increasingly apparent over the recent school summer holidays.
Izzy is five and likes unicorns, cartoons and what you could broadly call young kids’ stuff. Helen will be 10 at her next birthday and is, slowly but surely, getting into pop music, fashion and older kids’ stuff.
There have been a few occasions where Helen hasn’t wanted to play with Izzy because what she wants to do is considered too young. It was inevitable, but it makes me feel a little sad. It’s one of those signs, one of those many signs, that your kids don’t stay young forever.
Of course I only have the two children. How you manage this situation in families with more kids I simply don’t know!
Making a decision
No, don’t be daft, we haven’t genuinely reached a point where both kids have actually made a decision about something. I have added this milestone to the list because it is aspiration I’d like to reach, though I am not hopeful.
A typical discussion in our household will go like this:
“What do you want for dinner kids?”
“Beans on toast,” says one child.
This will be followed by a pause while the other child thinks about how they can totally outdo their sibling.
“Spinach and ricotta cannelloni with a side order of rocket salad and marinated queen green olives to start,” says the other.
Okay, no, discussions don’t quite go like that, but if one child wants night the other will want day. I have learned never to ask my kids open ended questions like the one above.
They have to be given a limited choice or else a decision is never made. I don’t have much hope it will happen soon, but one day I hope we will reach a point where the kids make a decision and stick to it. Now that would be a milestone.
What about your alternative parenting milestones?
Do you have any alternative parenting milestones you’d care to add to the list? I could have gone on and on, but thought I’d better leave this with the six (okay five) listed here. Please do add yours below. I’m sure there are many I simply haven’t thought about.