Some parents are quick to tell you how their child is meeting their milestones.
Whether by public proclamation or quiet acknowledgment, most of us note our children’s progress.
Some parents even enjoy talking confidently about percentiles, as if they understand what they are.
Our child’s ability to sleep through, sit up, walk, talk, know their letters, defecate in a potty, and demonstrate a prodigious knowledge of dinosaurs are cause for pride in many of us.
Talking about your child and being proud of them is an important feature of parenting.
A good parent should be proud of their child and every child needs someone to be proud of them.
Our view of milestones as birth parents was perhaps a little more pragmatic than most.
I was only really interested in our kids meeting milestones when they benefitted me.
Can my kid find an iPad, turn it on and find CBeebies allowing me to get on with sleeping?
Can my kid operate a microwave safely and make themselves something that looks like breakfast?
Can they make me something that I’m prepared to eat?
As I have notoriously low nutritional standards, my kids have been feeding me since they were very young, mostly with an assortment of toasties.
Most kids meet most milestones, eventually.
They learn to get up, get washed and get dressed.
Most kids meet enough milestones to do OK.
Fostering, which is essentially looking after someone else’s kid because they can’t, puts everything on a different footing.
Chronological age can often be absolutely meaningless. Periods of neglect, and all sorts of trauma can delay ‘expected progress’.
One boy we fostered needed help to get dressed every morning.
Part of the routine was helping him put his shoes on.
The shoes were Velcro and he was actually quite capable of putting them on himself.
We realised the routine of asking us to help was to meet an emotional need rather than a practical one.
He was scared.
Putting your shoes on means leaving the house, the house which represents safety and security.
Many parents kiss their child as they send them into the classroom, or into the schoolyard, or as they leave the house. As they get older we only kiss them on special occasions, like when they leave for University or are getting married.
Some kids need to be kissed and held, and reassured a little longer than others.
Whilst we are proud of their growing independence, we may also lament the fact that they no longer cling to us as they once did.
These milestones creep up on you and are rarely celebrated, but they are just as important as any other.
For this little foster child, the shoe routine was his way of having one last moment of safety with adults whom he’d learnt to trust.
Then, one day he stopped.
He put his shoes on himself, tightened the Velcro, and left the house to go to school.
That kid was gaining confidence and learning that what ever the day threw at him, he would be able to handle it.
He knew he would return to our house, his home, at the end of the day.
It had taken him a while, but he’d reached another milestone.
He was 10.
We’ve learnt to celebrate every little bit of progress.