This past Saturday, my youngest daughter celebrated her 13th birthday. We didn’t have a huge party – primarily because I’m not really the mom who throws big parties; also, summer birthday; also, she had been at church camp and was exhausted. We just had a quiet dinner (her choice, a casserole I used to make all the time – I stopped making it when I went dairy-free, but she requests it for her birthday), cake and presents. She was just glad to be home with her people and able to sleep in her own bed!
It’s easy for me as a mom to track and reflect on my kids’ milestones – all the firsts during the early years; the parade of first days of school and last days of school; the birthdays; the choices and changes that mark these growing-up years. Some of these milestones are exciting, like first steps. I remember watching my oldest as she figured out each piece of walking, from moving the feet and transferring the weight to getting herself into a standing position. She refused to take an unaided, shaky, reaching-out-arms step until she knew she could get herself back up when she fell. I watched the wheels turn the moment she realized she knew how to do it and the confidence she had to take a step and keep taking steps, and never look back to crawling. That moment is etched in my mind – the moment that my first-born asserted her independence and taught me something important about who she is all at the same time.
Sometimes we claim our kids’ milestones for ourselves, and certainly some things (*cough* potty training *cough*) are just as much of an achievement for the parents as for the children! But I wonder sometimes – I have all these ways to mark my kids’ journeys through life. But how do I measure my success as a mom? Where are my milestones?
A milestone is a marker of progress. And parents, we are not always very good at slowing down and looking at our own progress. (Definitely talking to myself, again.) Milestones are great opportunities to review growth. But as parents we don’t have a defined set of these milestones – not like the list you get in the books for what you should expect during your child’s first year!
Does anyone else struggle with this? I want to be a good parent. I want to make the right choices and raise good, independent, productive, compassionate members of society. But I want to see that I’ve grown and learned as a person myself. I only have these few years, so how do I know that I’ve made the best of them, for my daughters and myself?
I have an amazing friend, a discipleship mentor, who sits down with me regularly to talk about life. Not just “what are your plans for the summer” life but life. Like, what are you reading and what is God teaching you and how is work and how do you think you’re doing with the parenting. LIFE. These conversations have forced me to be more aware of the day-to-day of raising teens. Because I don’t have a list of milestones I’m supposed to hit as a mother by the time my child is ____ years old. And it is really easy to let the days blur together when it’s just school and activities and homework. I swear I blinked and my baby turned 13. Also, she went to summer camp for the first time, by herself. Where was the milestone, the progress marker, that told me she and I were both ready for that?
The fact is, we don’t get a list telling us what changes to expect inside of ourselves as parents. I think the only way to recognize the growth for ourselves is to be intentional about slowing down and reviewing our progress as we go. Because we change and grow constantly. I am not the same person I was when I had my first child. Being a mother to these two girls has taught me so much about how people are wired and how they learn and how they express. I believe they have taught me to be more compassionate and understanding of people. I experience a lot more wonder than I used to. And if I didn’t take they opportunity during some of their milestones to reflect on how far I’ve come, I would miss that part of my journey completely.
What do you all think? Do you have times that you regularly sit down and reflect on the different areas of your life and the change or progress you’ve made? Do you have tips for those of us who are still figuring it out? Please comment and share!