Twelve parenting milestones you won't find in any baby book

Can swim on their own: tick!
Can swim on their own: tick! Photo: Shutterstock

Parenting is hard. And relentless. And there are so many days where you're changing nappies, mopping up vomit and smiling through gritted teeth as you try to encourage your kids to eat their damn vegetables that they can all blend in together after a while.

That's why it's important to celebrate the wins when they happen. First smiles, first steps, first day of school – these are milestones we photograph and remember forever. But there are other milestones – ones you won't see in any baby books – that see us parents high-fiving all over the place too.

These are 12 milestones I think are well worth celebrating:

1. Learning to wipe their own bottom.
I have to admit, I didn't even notice this happening with my youngest. But one day she stopped yelling, "Muuuuuuum, I've finished!" – and I'm pleased to report I have no idea when or how often she poos.

2. Knowing how to vomit into a bucket.
It's a magical moment that means you can just give your child a receptacle when they're feeling ill, rather than mopping up all the soft furnishings in a room after they've spewed all over the place like Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

3. Buckling themselves in and out of the car.
For years, there was no such thing as a quick trip to the shops. Now, all I have to do is climb into the drivers' seat and start the engine – the children do the rest. It is truly amazing. An honourable mention also goes to no longer needing a booster seat, which means you can order an Uber.

4. Transitioning from a nappy bag to a regular handbag.
No more nappies, wipes, creams, balms, bunny rugs, change mats and toys! Sure, you probably need a decent sized tote for a while to fit crayons and emergency snacks, but you'll still feel a hundred times lighter. I recently traded up again to a tiny cross-body bag that could not possibly fit any of my children's belongings – so if they want to bring it, they have to carry it themselves. The feeling of liberation (not to mention the relief on my shoulders) is exhilarating.

5. Learning to swim on their own.
Of course, we're happy about this because it means our children are safe in and around the water. It also means you can sip a fruity beverage from your deck chair and read a magazine instead of having to offer yourself up as a human pool pony.

6. Leaving daycare.
Sure, the first day of school is exciting, but aren't we all just a little bit relieved that we don't have to pay those massive fees any more? When my youngest starts school in the new year, I'm planning on taking a bath in all the extra cash I'll have.


7. Getting their own breakfast.
The day you can lie in bed while they pour cereal and milk into a bowl on their own is a glorious one. It's totally worth the clean up you'll inevitably have to do afterwards. This will only last ten years or so, then they should be able to manage. Bonus points for when they can go to the shop at breakfast time and buy more milk because they polished off the last bottle after dinner last night.

8. Making their own way to and from school.
For years, you've been a slave to school timetables. You've been available for pick ups and drop offs. But when they can wave you goodbye and head out the door on their own, well, you can do anything you want, anywhere you want. At 9am and 3pm.

9. Cooking you dinner.
This is a tricky one because, although it's worth celebrating when they first learn to do it, you can bust out a second celebration when they're capable of making a meal you actually want to eat. And then a third celebration when you don't have to clean up a kitchen tsunami afterwards.

10. Telling jokes that are remotely funny.
None of my children have reached this crucial milestone yet, so I'm still breaking out that fake parent laugh. (What am I supposed to say when my son asks, "Why did the monkey take his banana to the doctor?" for the twelfth time today? I know it's because he wasn't peeling too bloody well!) I don't have high hopes we'll be ticking this one off any time soon.

11. Leaving them at home on their own.
First, this might be just a quick trip to the shop or the petrol station, but eventually, it will be going out for dinner or a trip to the movies. The age at which you can do this will vary for each child, and at first you'll worry, and text them every ten minutes, but eventually you'll be like a regular person who just goes out whenever they want to. Amazing.

12. Being your chauffeur for a change.
It's hard to imagine now, but the day will come when your child has their licence, and is a competent and capable driver. One day, you'll be at a party, or out with friends, and you'll realise you can call home and get a lift home from your kid. That's when years of payback really starts.