At 13 months, my baby boy got his first tooth, a full three months after his wombmate's tiny teeth first emerged. I remember cheering and celebrating, as if he had just won the Pulitzer. "Finally, a tooth!" I thought, so relieved to see enamel poking through his gums. "Thank God my child won't be toothless forever."
That first tooth milestone! It feels so monumental and so exciting, right up there with sleeping through the night, taking first steps and finally mastering potty training.
Nearly five years later, the firstborn twin has just lost two teeth while his brother's baby teeth stand firm. There's a sibling rivalry between them now that wasn't there when they were in diapers. So the fact that one boy has had two visits from the tooth fairy — while the other has yet to receive any winged late-night callers — is a source of contention.
To quell their competitiveness, when the subject arises, I've taken to dismissing the importance of losing baby teeth. Grown-up teeth? Meh. Who needs 'em?
But the truth is, the more I think about it, as milestones go, gaining and losing teeth are total D-listers. Gap-toothed grins are cute, but think about it: What do your kids' teeth have to do with your quality of life? I'll tell you: very little.
Unless you're nursing (then the emergence of a mouth full of teeth is quite a game-changer), I say teeth, shmeeth. There are far superior milestones — milestones that can change. your. life! Things such as learning proper toilet-bowl aim and licking an ice cream cone (Go around the cone, kids! BEFORE the ice cream melts all over every %@!& thing!) are high on my list.
But here are my top milestones I think parents should await breathlessly:
•Ability to blow one's own nose: Before I had children, I had no idea that blowing your nose is not intuitive. There's something stuck up in your nose? Blow down to get it out! What's the confusion here? But it takes a good two to three years before kids learn not to blow air with their mouths when you say "blow!" or snort the mucus back up. Thus, there are all sorts of "snot-suckers" on the market that kids universally hate, and irrigation systems that give the illusion of working — and my personal favorite from my earthy, natural-Momma sister: Suck the stuff with your own mouth. I actually tried that. Once.
•Wiping one's own behind: This month, for the first time, I hit the trifecta: All three kids needed wiping consecutively, each time yelling, "Can you wipe me?" just after I'd washed my hands from the child before. My daughter is 3, so I give her a pass, but my boys will be 6 this year, friends. When will this end? #sendhelp
•Teeth-brushing: Did you know that dentists recommend parents brush for their kids until they're between 7 and 9, and have the dexterity and wrist-movements associated with writing in cursive? Did you know they're getting rid of cursive in schools these days? We will all be brushing our kids' teeth forever.
•Tying one's own shoes: This is a mindless task that takes two seconds, true. But it's two seconds 30 times a day. Unless you double- and triple-knot. But then they can't get their shoes off themselves. Or they can't untie the knots, so you spend 20 minutes — on your way out the door, of course — cursing yourself for tying the knot in the first place.
•Putting on gloves: Mittens are wonderful inventions, but little ones have limited gripping ability when wearing them. So at a certain point, kids eschew their easy-peasy mittens for gloves. Except they can't figure out the 1-to-1 ratio to SAVE THEIR LIVES. Getting kids dressed for a winter outing is frustrating enough with all the layers of clothes and all the "I'm HOT!" When my boys learned how to put on their own gloves this year, I almost cried tears of joy.
Now, if only they could remember where they left them.
Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who now works as director at a communications firm. She and her husband have twin 5-year-old sons, a 3-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her column appears monthly.