Unforgettable Childhood Milestones
The most meaningful benchmarks aren’t always found on a development chart. Six writers share the moments when they glimpsed the person their child would become.
Ours is a family that celebrates the silly and praises spontaneous dancing and singing. At dinner we’re allowed to leave the table for only two reasons: (1) to go to the bathroom or (2) to rock out if we are moved to do so.
My 5-year-old daughter, Annabel, habitually abuses this privilege. She can manage only two bites of macaroni before she’s shimmying and snaking her way across the wooden floor of the dining room. And while Annabel is “onstage,” she demands complete attention, especially from me. If my eyes stray from her performance, she’ll holler at me until they return. When she and I used to bike to school, we’d sing together the whole way—Oh, what a beautiful mornin’, oh, what a beautiful day—while waving at everyone we passed.
This past winter, our family moved to a new home. I had to walk Annabel to the bus stop every morning. Some days the bus would come late. To kill time and keep warm, we’d belt “Make ’Em Laugh” and “Singin’ in the Rain” while tap-dancing and kicking holes in the snowbanks. Then, one day, she did something new. As soon as her yellow bus came into view, her mouth tightened, her chin lowered, and she shushed me. And when I didn’t stop singing (I actually sang more loudly just to tease her), she stepped on my feet until I quieted down. It was a sad moment. I had anticipated it would come—just not when she was so young. “Who’s on the bus that’s so important?” I asked. She didn’t answer. Is she waking up to the pressures of the social world? I wondered. Or is she just becoming her own person, apart from me?
I would like to think that person will be consistent with the person I know and love—that resolutely joyous and goofy girl—but ultimately it’s outside my control. She’s going to sing in her own voice at her own volume. I only hope she believes in the beauty of that voice as much as I do.