Baby, Toddler Milestones The Parenting Books Don’t Tell You About

There is a seemingly endless supply of parenting “how to” books filled with milestones parents need to reach so they can confidently (or, you know, tentatively) say they are capable of caring for a child.

While it is certainly important to know how to secure a baby in a car seat or navigate nights during yet another soul-sucking sleep regression, there is also an unspoken list of true parenting milestones.

Yes, “Screaming into the void,” we’re looking at you. is here to share the real markers that every person who cares for a small child will inevitably check off their proverbial list. So as you tick off the days of first steps, food aversions, toddler tantrums and preschool graduation ceremonies, here it is: A list of parenting experiences every mother and father will inevitably drag their battered, sleep-deprived and, yes, joy-filled selves through as their human potato sack turns into a tiny person.

As you scroll through this reminder of how parenthood humbles, enhances and changes you in those early days, months and years, just remember that your kid will eventually grow into a teenager who picks a fight and says they hate you. Ah, the joys of parenting.

By year one:

  • Take back every negative or naive thing you’ve ever said about a parent and their crying baby in public. Silently apologize to them, their ancestors, their children and their children’s children for ever thinking such asinine things.
  • Lose every ounce of modesty, shame or shyness regarding public nudity after you’ve either given birth (and likely pooped) in front of total strangers, had your insides pulled to your outsides so your baby could enter the world or ripped off a vomit-covered shirt in the middle of a crowded street. Body autonomy is for the child-free.
  • Invent a multilevel marketing scheme in which you find a way to bottle up the smell of a newborn’s head and sell it to the masses.
  • Question every life decision you’ve ever made.
  • Cast a multigenerational curse on whoever decided to put buttons on baby onesies. They will pay for their sins.

By year two:

  • Have a fight with your spouse in which you both say toxic, terrible things that you can never take back — a fight that would have devastated you for days in your previous life but now you just go on with your day like nothing happened because who has the energy? Not you. Not your partner.
  • Question every life decision you’ve ever made.
  • Make a parenting mistake so vile, so shame-inducing, that you swear you’ll take it to your grave.
  • Experience temporary amnesia and contemplate the idea of another child. To pull yourself back to the confines of reality, you instinctually stub your toe on purpose — serves you right.
  • Become fully acquainted with the entire “Cocomelon” catalogue and “Songs for Littles” soundtrack and recoil in horror as you hear yourself speaking in a Ms. Rachel impersonation. Remember when you swore your toddler wouldn’t watch TV? Ha.
  • Become so obsessed with your child that you’re almost terrified you’ll eat their cheeks right off their precious face.

By year three:

  • Wonder how in the live-long world you’ve survived to experience parenthood when there is literal danger all around you — door hinges, the corner of a bookshelf, kitchen counters, a crack in a sidewalk … all deadly.
  • Get into a ridiculous argument with someone who claims parents choosing to reproduce are polluting the globe … like there aren’t multimillion dollar corporations dumping toxic waste straight into the sea.
  • Praise the “5-Second Rule” as the single greatest regulatory statute known to man. All hail.
  • Question every life decision you’ve ever made.
  • Test the boundaries of personal hygiene because who has time for a daily (read: weekly) shower? Not you.
  • Watch your child run with the stability of a newborn baby deer and feel equal parts entertained and gut-clinchingly anxious that they’ll fall flat on their tiny little face. (They will.)

By year four:

  • Plan a pilgrimage to Commugny, Switzerland, so you can pay homage to the genius Georges De Mestral, the electrical engineer who invented Velcro and has saved you countless hours of shoelace tying.
  • Question every life decision you’ve ever made.
  • Find beauty in the most ridiculous finger painting that can only be described as a blob of mixed-up colors resembling fecal matter solely because that poop blob was created by your oh-so-proud child.
  • Frame said finger painting and hang it where your once beloved, one-of-a-kind travel souvenir once lived. Who needs non-Fisher Price home décor when you have this monumental poop painting? Not you, apparently.
  • Give your greatest Liberace impression using your child’s belly as a makeshift piano and become absolutely obsessed with their infectious laugh.
  • Discover that the imprint of a red Lego is now permanently branded into your right foot. Chuckle at your newfound lack of nerve endings.
  • Promise yourself you’d only let your child listen to Mozart and Yo-Yo Ma only to have them memorize every word of “Back That Azz Up” by Juvenile.

By year five:

  • Become an investor in the one brand of frozen chicken nuggets your child dares to consume. Marvel at how your freezer once stored things like “ice” and “bottles of vodka.”
  • Judge another person’s parenting choices only to have the swift hands of karmic retribution slap you upside your silly little head.
  • Watch your child inexplicably hurt themselves. While you instinctively yearn to take the pain away you silently tell yourself, out of pure spite: “Dude, I told you so.”
  • Plot the demise of the obvious monster who created “Bluey” for making you feel wholly inadequate as a parent because are you going to play that many imaginative games with your kid like some cartoon Blue heeler? Absolutely not.
  • Question every life decision you’ve ever made.
  • Think back on all the times you’ve quietly resented your child for needing you so terribly only to watch them go off by themselves into a classroom and feel a type of pride and devastation that snatches the oxygen from your lungs.

And, of course, suddenly realize that when your baby needed you in those moments when you felt like you had nothing left to give, you needed them, too.