Milestone tracking is primarily a newbie parent activity during baby’s first or second year. By that time, most parents have already grasped the notion that the so-called developmental milestones are just guidelines and not necessarily something that their unique little human beings will follow to the tee. Over time, these milestones are delegated to a forgotten little corner of the parental brain which is already overflowing with TODO lists, birthday/playdate schedules, sports, preschool and other activities long before the child even turns four. But then there is a sweet spot between the child’s 4th and 5th birthdays when some long-awaited milestones will be reached, making the parents sit up and take note of their children’s budding independence and individuality.
So without further preface, let me present to you these 10 milestones to look forward to and celebrate by the time your little one reaches his 5th birthday (or even earlier):
1. You will no longer need to be the “Potty Monitor”
Your child may be potty trained long before his 4th birthday, but up until recently you still had the job of being his “Potty Monitor”, the roles and responsibilities of which included:
- Reminding him to use the potty at regular intervals throughout the day; for example, before going outside, before bedtime, after waking up and so on
- Making sure he pooped at least once a day (to avoid the nasty constipation situation)
- Being his companion and source of encouragement during bathroom breaks
- Cleaning up after he is done
Finally, you can say bye-bye to this “not-so-enticing” job forever. Somewhere between 4 and 5 years, your child will suddenly develop independence in his potty habits and no longer need your help in this department much. You will no longer have to remind him to use the bathroom, he will just go when needed and you will thank heavens for it!
2. You will no longer be supervised by a “Bathroom Monitor” during your bathroom breaks. Ah, the bliss!
Even more celebration-worthy than #1 will be the milestone when your little one will leave you alone during bathroom breaks (….And you thought nothing could beat #1! Didn’t you?). Whether you need to shower or use the toilet, you will finally be able to “take your time” in the most literal sense possible. No one will knock on the door asking for an update every few seconds or break down into tears because they couldn’t see your face. You will finally be able to stop doing a running commentary on your bathroom habits out loud (though you may find it very difficult to stop doing it in your head for a long time to come. By now, timing yourself at each step would have become second nature to you!).
3. You can bid adieu to your “Sleep Supervisor” job
Your “Sleep Supervisor” job will also bite the dust soon after your child is done celebrating his 4th birthday. Your child will become independent in his sleep habits, not needing you to remind him to go to bed (A flip side to that will be that he will no longer nap making your afternoons oh-so-long and break-less!). He will sleep when exhausted and won’t really need you to put him to bed by gauging his tiredness cues. Also, the crazy tip-toeing out of the bedroom, once he is asleep, will no longer be needed as he wouldn’t care much whether you are with him or not when he wants to sleep. Remember this?
So go ahead and cheer for Late Night TV! And in case you needed some more good news, your child is also better at determining the edge of his bed, decreasing your worry many-folds that he will fall off the bed while sleeping.
4. You can finally say “Please wait for 2 minutes.” and actually, make your child wait for more than a few nanoseconds
Having your child comprehend the meaning of “wait” is a skill that makes parents’ lives oh-so-much-easier than before. Though your child will still not be able to read the clock and distinguish 2 minutes from 10, his being patient for a few minutes gives you the much-needed breathing space to get some work done. Now that your child understands the concept of wait time and that of past, present and future, he suddenly becomes more patient and understanding when you tell him that you will be able to buy him batteries the next morning and not in the middle of the night. His newfound maturity and patience can save you many-a-meltdowns and heartaches in the present!
5. You will no longer need to be the “Meal/Snack time Enforcer”
Like sleep, hunger cues will no longer need to be projected onto your child. Even if your child is still a picky eater, he will acknowledge hunger readily and ask for a meal/snack at appropriate times, not needing you to be his enforcer. He will become more assertive with his food choices too, letting you know when he wants more helpings or when he is done. You will be thankful for this transformation because meal times will finally stop being war zones!
6. You will finally have a child who understands the voice of reason. Say hello to “whine-free” days…mostly!
Whether is it sharing or empathy or any other activity needing a detailed explanation, your child will be reasonable and willing to please you and his friends even if it means doing something he doesn’t want to. And the whining and meltdowns when things don’t go his way will reduce considerably.
7. You will hear the magic words “I am sorry” and know that they are heartfelt and not parroted
Your child will be sincere in his apologies, finally. Whether its accidental spills, broken toys or occasional anger outbursts, he will say a heartfelt “I am sorry” cause now he finally understands cause-and-effect. He will even help you fix/remedy the situation. And that is just perfect!
8. You can finally turn your “Mom-Instinct-O-Meter” down a notch and instead, rely on your child’s verbal prowess to describe his emotions, feelings, and sensations
Whether it is some physical pain/discomfort or emotional distress, whatever the reason, your child will now rely more on his words to describe his feelings than his earlier default act of reducing to tears. This makes understanding your child’s needs much easier and you will no longer need to rely on your instincts too much to read the situation. Your child will say the exact thing he needs to say (perhaps not in as many words, but you will understand it anyway)!
9. Your safety instructions will finally start making sense to your child
Road safety, electrical appliance safety, fire safety etc. will make sense to your child and he will start following your instructions properly at home and outside. Finally, he will understand that such rules are not something he needs to challenge but rather they are there to keep him safe. And yes, you can finally start cooking on the front burners again!
10. You can assign some chores to your child and actually witness them getting completed without needing any intervention
Putting his toys in a bin, organizing his books/school bag, throwing leftovers in the garbage bin, putting dishes in the sink, keeping his shoes/jacket etc. where they belong, putting his dirty clothes in the laundry basket etc. are some chores that you can very easily assign your 4+-year-old and rest assured that they will be completed without needing you to follow through. Once you have driven home the notion that these are “grown up” chores, your child will more than willingly take these responsibilities up, making your home life easier.
11. Your “Puke-factory” child will finally learn to restrain himself and not barf the whole meal at the slightest pretext
I don’t know how many of you will actually relate to this, but sonny was a puke-factory up until recently. Not anymore! Finally, he has learned the fine art of restraining himself during a coughing bout and not vomit his whole meal contents. I don’t know about you, but in my home, it is one hell of a milestone worth its’ own separate heading 🙂
12. Basic grooming functions like brushing, bathing, dressing etc. will become much easier, thanks to your cooperative child
With increased maturity, comes cooperation too. All grooming functions which used to be the reason for extended battles and many tears will become much easier now. In fact, you can start looking forward to the milestone when your child will stop needing your assistance altogether for these activities (which I am hoping will happen sometime soon!)
13. You will finally stop dreading the change of seasons as harbingers of a cough, cold, and fever
Until recently, every change of season used to be the harbinger of a cough, cold, fever and similar seasonal ailments for your child. And each bout of cold used to be so dreadful that you got into the habit of stocking up on cold and allergy medications all year-long! But in case you haven’t noticed, somewhere between his first and his umpteenth cough syrup/box of tissues, your child’s immunity would have improved many folds. By his 4th birthday, he will be quite resilient to the common viruses and succumb to them far less than before. And even if he does catch a cold, he will be back to his usual self quicker than before (…although you should not jinx it by talking about it like I am doing right now!)
There you have it, some wonderful milestones to celebrate between your child’s 4th and 5th birthdays. Have I missed some? Don’t forget to share!