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Wednesday
Aug072013

Unexpected milestones 

This post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations FoundationPlease leave a comment below. Every comment provides a vaccine for a child.

My son was five months old when he said his first word. This is the stuff of family legends that gets bent and bowed and tucked away and brought out again in a far-different shape that it was first created. One day that five-month milestone will be whittled down to three months or earlier, maybe shrink back to the womb. But five months is the true timeline.
I know because I was there to hear the "HI!" emerge from the babbling.

By the time he was a year old, I had a well-filled notebook lined with careful columns of the 120 words he could say. I tracked it all, just pages away from spiral-bound lists of when I breastfed him, how long his naps were, what he weighed at each well-check doctor appointment. I read like crazy and stacks of child-development books, affirmations for new parents, guides to schedules and sleeping and crying it out and attachment parenting piled up on the table next to the glider where I nursed my babbling baby boy from infancy into toddlerhood.<
I charted this new territory of motherhood quietly and calmly. E rattled off the barnyard animals but he wasn't walking, or even attempting to cruise around from coffee table to sofa to ottoman to wobbly fall on the floor. 

It will come, I assured myself and my then-mother-in-law, who fretted that her babies walked early and mine did not.
 



All of his energy is going to conversation, I said, repeating the mama-wisdom I'd heard my mother say and her mother say. I believed it. Still, I'd carry that notebook with me to see the pediatrician, who I knew was relaxed about children's individual growth and development, just in case she asked where his energy was going if it wasn't pushing him up on his feet and propelling him around our tiny apartment. 


She never asked, at least in a worried way. And he did walk, at 15 months. Then he ran and climbed and gazed lovingly at Gloria Estefan and shook his tiny, diapered booty. He was potty-trained and sent off to preschool. He eventually skipped with proficiency and can wheel a scooter with the best of 'em at the park. And he did all of that, talking the entire time, providing his own color commentary to each milestone he passed. 


 



As I ticked off the milestones in my head, notebook and then reassuring discussions with E's grandmothers, I felt the slide into a different parenting space. One where the worries shifted from "will he ever really learn to tie a shoe without my assistance?" and "please, God, let him master the art of peeing standing up" to bigger childhood concerns we all cringe to see coming. Bullying. Broken hearts. Driving. Drugs. Prom date disappointment. Moving away. That first god-awful apartment with seven other laundry protesters. The first job interview. Love. They'd come. But not yet. They were off somewhere in tweendom or teendom or beyond.


Once he was safely in big-boy undies, I thought the milestones had subsided and The Big Stuff was enough off in the distance that I could breathe easy. What I didn't know was that the milestones would keep coming, and bring a gasp of surprise and wonder and bittersweet delight.


I got that the moment I heard E read aloud for the first time. Sure, I knew it was going to happen soon. For a year or two, he'd been sounding out words and memorizing books we'd lovingly brutalized reading over and over again. He built a solid list of sight-words, much like that first list of vocabulary, and soon, he was stringing together sentences. I urged him on, we practiced, he learned to write as he read and the two skills skipped along happily with my talker of a boy.


 


Then the words came tumbling out of his mouth for pages at a time. And the tears fell down my smiling cheeks while more words came. I'd try to capture it all on video, and only end up with bits and pieces. Or I'd mean to press record but would find my fingers unable to move away from holding the book and my boy as he read to me. As he read to me.
 



Here he is at seven, reading pages from a favorite, funny book. A first-grader, his amazing teacher pushed him to think and research and ask questions and told him it was time to read more. She gave him his first chapter book to read on his own. It was from the Cam Jansen series. He didn't love it. He liked it (he's diplomatic that way) just enough to open his hands when I handed him another chapter book and another and another to read on his own.


That milestone of reading at six became the even more astounding milestone of whizzing through chapter books at seven. Today, nearing the end of age eight, this kid hates to go anywhere without a book. He's devoured the three series by Rick Riordan in a matter of months and he cannot wait for the next 500+-page book to come out this fall. He prefers to lay side by side before bedtime, reading independently for a bit rather than letting me read aloud to him. 


 



I miss that sometimes. I think I cherished Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White even more than the words he wrote deserved (and they deserved a lot of love) because it was the last chapter book I read aloud to my son this year. I won't hold that sadness, though, because it is so fun to see E buried inside a story, bursting to talk about the characters and begging to stop off at a bookstore. 


At seven, with a biography of Jackie Robinson in his backpack and Diary of a Wimpy Kid on his nightstand and 39 Clues at his dad's house, all simultaneously half-read, he still hadn't figured out how to breathe underwater during swimming lessons and was in a full-on boycott of even TRYING to ride his bike. (The swimming came the next spring but he's still a bicycle rebel. And so I buy another book, and exhale.)
 



This kid is who he is, and I get the joy of discovering him every day. That's not overly sentimental. Sometimes it is exhausting and hard and full of fret. But most moments, it is me with my notebook or laptop  or video recorder or chapter book, meticulously marking the path he sets out on. One word, one step, one sentence, one chapter, one series, one mother's spiral notebook, one milestone at a time. 


The rest will come. Today, all of his energy is going to reading. 



This post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that educates, connects and empowers the championing of vaccines as one of the most cost effective ways to save the lives of children in the world’s hardest to reach places.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust, 31 bloggers, one each day in August, are writing about moments that matter. For every comment on this post and the 30 other posts, Walgreens will donate a vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines). A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. We can change this reality and help save kids’ lives! 

Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! Stay connected with Shot@Life at www.shotatlife.org, join the campaign on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Please leave a comment below. Every comment provides a vaccine for a child. 

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References (16)

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Reader Comments (212)

What sweet memories of a special boy! Thank you for being a part of Shot@Life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter~j.

Love to read about children who love reading. Their lives are enriched beyond imagination. Thank you for the post. Thank you Walgreen's for giving so many Children a shot at life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

I can only imagine that one day your son will love to read here about his early years becoming a reader! Thank you for your beautiful post in support of Shot@Life and vaccines for kids!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily McKhann

Awesome! Reading is a valuable skill for any child to have and I am so sad when I encounter children who are not able to. I want to commend you for instilling in your child a love of reading. Keep on doing the good job; keep on celebrating E's milestones. God Bless.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShanniel Shakespeare

Awesome! Reading is a valuable skill for any child to have and I am so sad when I encounter children who are not able to. I want to commend you for instilling in your child a love of reading. Keep on doing the good job; keep on celebrating E's milestones. God Bless.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShanniel Shakespeare

I love hearing E's milestones- and the reading part is thrilling! My oldest is 2 years behind him, so I'm getting ready for the books! xo
Morra

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMorra

Awesome! Reading is a valuable skill for any child to have and I am so sad when I encounter children who are not able to. I want to commend you for instilling in your child a love of reading. Keep on doing the good job; keep on celebrating E's milestones. God Bless.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShanniel Shakespeare

Awesome! Reading is a valuable skill for any child to have and I am so sad when I encounter children who are not able to. I want to commend you for instilling in your child a love of reading. Keep on doing the good job; keep on celebrating E's milestones. God Bless.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShanniel Shakespeare

Ah, the joys of reading! I am blessed with a boy - now a grown man who loves books. Thank you for your beautiful blog posting. and God Bless

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

What a wonderful mom - letting this child find his own milestones and not those self-imposed by others. And he loves to read - Yeah!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDee Van Horn

I am sure one day your child would grow to be a good person one day... Don't worry about the future too much. Let him discover himself one milestone at a time...
Thanks for supporting Shot@Life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

My beautiful boy is 11 and won't ride a bike. So they can have a boycott together. Thanks for being part of Blogust and helping children get the vaccines they need, Jessica!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Stone

The love of reading, I think there is no greater gift :) Thank you for sharing.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Every child grows and learns at their own rate. Reading is a great thing for kids. I hope I can continue to keep my children interested in books to help them continue to grow.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Gorgeous post. Blogust is turning out to be just lovely. thank you.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer G.

I also loved reading from a young age. I read everything I could get my hands on, from Nancy Drew to Roald Dahl to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I was alway in the middle of a book. I love to see children who love reading as much as I did.

Thank you for sharing, and thank you for helping out children who are not as fortunate as ours.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Reading is a beautiful gift. Thank you for supporting vaccination!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

Love the part about him dancing to Gloria Estefan! Great post!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAsif Khan

My granddaughter is a gifted reader and the day she started reading Scripture at Mass was not only a milestone but a gift to the whole church! To read Old Testament without a stumble, and to read it so everyone can hear it clearly and understand what it is saying is a gift. A proud moment for any grandparent.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoyce

Wonderful post! Reading will open up so many ideas and experiences for him. And thank you for supporting Shot@Life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Thanks for supporting Shot@Life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEI

My granddaughter is a gifted reader and the day she started reading Scripture at Mass was not only a milestone but a gift to the whole church! To read Old Testament without a stumble, and to read it so everyone can hear it clearly and understand what it is saying is a gift. A proud moment for any grandparent.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoyce

With teachers as parents and two brothers who came before her, my niece was surrounded by books from a very young age. No wonder she was reading before she entered kindergarten. And now, at the age of 10, she reads all the time and is advanced beyond her years. Reading is the basis for all things learned so we are blessed that they enjoy reading so much.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Love that your son loves to read. From a mama who's boy RAN at nine months, but struggles to read at 6...I know how you feel. Just the opposite direction. ;)

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjeannett

Your stories of how verbal your son has always been, plus the direction of energy into talking vs. walking, reminded of my own eight-year-old. Nearly all of her energy went into movement, and it was shortly before she turned three that she qualified for speech therapy. I'd never know it now, to see her lie next to me in bed at night and read to me.

It all evens out. So excited that you're part of this effort to help more kids and their parents watch their own stories unfold.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Marsh

Thanks Shot@Life - this is really awesome! Changing lives for the better.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Rinehart

Beautiful!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterC

Thanks for sharing your sons journey. My God son was a early learner and he is nine and still lives to know something new every minute he is breathing.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYolanda Triplett

I still read to/with my children, as that is a connective moment, but the reading on their own, the quest for more books, more knowledge is priceless. All children and families should have those opportunities. Shot@Life and global vaccinations do just that: give everyone a shot at an opportunity. Thanks Walgreens for knowing that comments count.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMyrdin Thompson

Reading is a wonderful way to travel in the life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGemma Jeva

Wonderful! I too am a reader and am still working to instill that love in my daugther. She too has devoured many a chapter book since she started reading. She is 9 now and can finally ride a two wheeled bike. We are still working on the swimming in between books.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterREK981

This is a wonderful post! I have a one-month old son and am already tracking (and fretting about) his milestones. This is a reminder to enjoy each and every one of them, and to not want to speed through them, because childhood is too short.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

Lovely story. I do also have a book with little stories of my boy. Hope he can one day read them all!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAG

Thank you for writing for Shot@Life!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterccylevin

Thank you for your great support of Shot@Life and for sharing this beautiful post about your son. Moments, milestones, the READING and loving words and books are things that each child should experience and each parent should see...

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

You remind me of how Edmund Burke's first words, at the age of four or so, were "Thank you, madam, the pain is now much abated." (She had accidentally spilled her cup of hot tea on him.)

Every child has his own pace-- and most of them are happy, skipping paces, thank God.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann

Such a great story. Thanks for sharing.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBasirat

Reading in the bath is a favorite pastime of mine too!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVeramur

Wonderful memories, feelings and perspective! Thanks for sharing.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Thanks for sharing! :)

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler Scholl

This is a wonderful story. Many times, reading is not done as often as it should be. It is inspiring to see a child, so young, and so passionate about books.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterD.Fox

Milestones are wonderful.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterseana

Thanks for supporting Shot@Life and sharing your story.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPolly Palumbo

Lovely.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Reading was so exciting for me as kid, it was such a comfort and continues to be. Great post.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKay L

Thank you for sharing these lovely stories about your family.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDick

Cool!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChaz Walter

As a mother I am guilty of comparing my children to my friend's children's accomplishments. We worry that will not stand up to their peers. But I am always proud of my children, now 21 and 19. They are true individuals and continue to amaze me every day.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

Oh, I was a childhood reader like that as well! I love his voraciousness!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Kiger

Such a lovely post. Thanks for supporting Shot@Life.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Ditz

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