3 important baby milestones the parenting books don’t mention – Jon Oxtoby Writes

3 important baby milestones the parenting books don’t mention

Our little girl is now 17 months old (I think? To be honest, I’ve been fuzzy on it ever since we switched from counting in weeks to counting in months). In that time, there have been many milestones to celebrate – her first birthday, her first steps, her first attempts at words. There have also been some milestones we weren’t so keen on – sleep regressions, first time she fell off the bed, and so on. It’s all part of what we were told to expect when becoming new parents.

 

But there are the milestones that nobody prepared us for. They’re not always bad, not always good, but they’re definitely things that any new parent should know about. So it’s obviously in the public interest that I share my top 3 milestones that you won’t find in the baby books.

1: lying about pooing

Some websites will tell you that babies can only really start lying from 42 months. That might be true for complex acts of deception, but our daughter has been capable of lying by omission ever since she learned the word “yeah.” She’ll answer in the affirmative for lots of things, from “have you finished dinner?” to “would you like to watch Octonauts?” to “shall we facetime your auntie?” She plainly knows what it means, and uses “yeah” to communicate with us. It’s great.

 

But if you ask her “have you done a poo?” you’re greeted with a stony silence. She will not admit to pooing, it seems, under any circumstances. This is because she’s bright enough to know that if she’s done a poo, she has to have her nappy changed, which means she can’t keep watching Frozen or chewing daddy’s keys or walking round the house singing. And that, of course, would be a disaster. So, she reasons, deception is the way forward.

 

The problem is that she, like most other babies, is not a very subtle pooer. For the non-parents out there, babies have a definite pooing face. It’s red, looks slightly surprised, and often is accompanies by little grunts that make you feel guilty for not giving your baby more fibre. Then, of course, there’s also the poo smell. This doesn’t really happen for young babies, who are still only drinking milk, but once your baby starts eating solids you enter a whole new realm of poo smells. Our daughter hasn’t realised that it’s precisely these things – the face and the stench – that drive us to ask her whether or not she’s pooed. So she stands, there, red-faced and smelling, refusing to tell us that she’s pooed – or sometimes trying to distract us by doing other things – until we pick her up and take her to the changing table, at which point a desperate struggle begins. She screams and yells as I try to lie her down and take off her nappy, while I scream and yell on the inside as I try not to get poo everywhere. The winner, I think, is the person least covered in poo (if anyone else defines victory another way, please let me know).

2: calling for you by name rather than yelling nonsense

Most mornings, parents are woken up by their child wailing (and if you aren’t, well then lucky you!). As our daughter has grown, this has sometimes been replaced by singing, or babbling – but usually becoming increasingly loud and indignant the longer she’s left to her own devices. It’s just part of parenting life, and you learn to live with it (though I wonder how long it will leave me waking up feeling a little spike of tension as I wait for the next wail).

 

This morning, however, I was woken with a soft, insistent little cry of “daddeeeeeee! Daaaaaddeeeeeeeeee!” She was calling my name.

 

My heart leapt. It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard. It was soothing. It was the most welcome change to hearing “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” or “BABBLAAAABALAAABBLBLBLBLAAAAA” in the morning. It was so relaxing that I accidentally left her for another 5 minutes before getting up, just to hear her say it again. I went to wake her up, and we had the best morning ever, until I found out the raspberries, which are one of her favourite foods for breakfast, had gone mouldy.

 

It must be said, this milestone didn’t happen spontaneously. My wife has spent a few weeks patiently training our daughter to call for me from the bath, as it’s my job to get the towel out, dry her off and put her to bed. It’s sometimes also my job to pass my wife the our daughter’s toothbrush if she’s sat at the wrong end of the bath to reach it, which happens too often to be purely accidental, I think.

3: hanging up on relatives

Our daughter has done most of her growing up during lockdown – meaning that video calls have been a bigger part of her life than we were expecting. She’s loved them. She smiles when her grandparents show up, she
regularly blows her auntie a kiss when they speak, and we’ve discovered that she is, in fact, a colossal showoff for the camera.

 

Recently, however, we’ve noticed a new trend. She’s always loved to hold the phone herself, even if she hasn’t yet learned how to hold it so that the person on the other end can see more than her nostrils, or the floor. But recently she’s noticed the big red button that ends the call – and has become obsessed with trying to press it. We’re not quite sure whether she knows that this is what the button does, and she’s had enough of the conversation, or if she’s just entranced by the red colour. Whatever the reason, it’s made for some slightly awkward moments with the family as we try and continue a charming conversation while the star of the show furiously tries to hang up.

 

It might be linked to the fact that she’s developing her own interests at a rapid pace. Six months ago she would happily do whatever we decided was best for her, whether that was eat dinner, speak to relatives, or go for a walk. Now, she knows what she wants to do (which, sadly, is often to get all her toys out and strew them all over the floor) and not even the sight of beloved relatives on the phone screen will deter her. Even in person, on the days we’ve made use of our informal childcare, she settles down to play with the Duplo at her grandparents’ house and the best goodbye I often get is a half-arsed wave that looks more like she’s brushing a fly out of her ear. So perhaps her hanging up on people is just an extension of that focus on whatever she’s doing in the moment. I hope so. It’s certainly an easier explanation than “she just doesn’t think your conversation is very interesting, Grandma.”

The little moments that catch you by surprise

All joking aside, it seems parenthood is made up of hundreds of little milestones and developments that you weren’t expecting. Hearing my daughter attempt to sing Into the Unknown for the first time was amazing (once I’d established that she wasn’t actually on fire, which was what the noise sounds like to the untrained ear). Corny as it may be, it’s these little moments that make parenting such fun – even more, possibly, than the big milestones like first steps.

 

That said, I do wish she’d come clean about the poo. As it were.

 

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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