Birthdays and graduations tug at our heartstrings. But many other smaller milestones touch us in ways the big events sometimes don't.
Everything in this slideshow
When the Umbilical Cord Falls Off
That dried-out lump sat in my baby's belly button for days, preventing me from bathing her and sparking much marital discord: "Fold the diaper down! How could you forget to fold it down?!" I also had the privilege of dealing with a stump infection. (If you've ever sniffed around, wondering if there was a dead mouse somewhere on your newborn, then you know the joy of that particular experience.) So I was startled when I found myself mourning a little after the stump was gone. And yet it made sense: It was the last sign of the bond that my child and I had shared for nine (long, excruciating) months.
When the First Tooth Breaks Through
For breastfeeding moms, that first white bud doesn't just mean that you're in danger of getting chomped. It also represents a sad reality: You will never see that gummy grin again.
When You've Nursed for the Final Time
For the 11 months I breastfed my daughter, I complained about fiery nipples, 2 a.m. wake-ups, and sagging breast tissue. But then one day she'd had enough. I was pushing my breast in her face and she was squirming away from me. It was ugly. I finally convinced myself to move on and buy some cute (non-nursing!) bras to make the transition a little easier.
When You Give Away the ExerSaucer
We live in a 1,000-square-foot condo. Approximately 800 square feet of it has, at some point, been taken over by swings, ExerSaucers, and Bumbo seats. But as our children have outgrown them, my husband and I feel like we're in an episode of Hoarders. The day we got rid of the baby swing, knowing I'd never need it again, I actually cried as the garbage men hauled it away.
The Last Night in a Crib
There are many upsides to ditching this piece of furniture -- no more hunching over the rail to make up the bed and no more worrying that he'll hurl himself out of it, for starters. But the evening you place your child in his crib for the final time? It hurts. I know my son's crib days are numbered, which is why I sneak into his room just to watch him sleep, his tiny hand curled around his blanket, the four "walls" keeping him safe.
When They Outgrow Their Cute Little Sayings
Who doesn't have a child who's sweetly butchered an everyday word? But then the kid grows up, starts saying the real word, and we parents are left with only the story of "how adorable it was when Sam used to say 'pan-a-cakes.'" My daughter, who was 18 months old when we brought her brother Alan home, called him "Ani" for months. Then one day she woke up, said "Alan," and that was that. But to me and my husband? He is "Ani" now and forever.
The First Haircut
You may be so focused on your child's reaction that you don't give any thought to how you'll handle that initial snip. My daughter was 3 before I got her hair cut for the first time. No sooner had the cutting begun than I remembered that the hair on the floor was the hair she was born with. Waah!
School Performances (All of Them)
The first time I saw my daughter at her preschool assembly, singing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" in Spanish, I teared up. It was hot in the room and I was one of hundreds fighting to catch a glimpse of the little ones in action, but there was just something so beautiful about the work that went into the event.
Before you had kids, did you even know there was such a thing? But there are few occasions more tear-inducing (and melodramatic) than 15 4-year-olds in tissue-paper caps and gowns marching to "Pomp and Circumstance."
When They're in a Wedding
Even if everything that led to the ceremony was a giant pain, once your little flower girl or ring bearer is all dolled up, you may very well feel the waterworks starting. It's partly because the kid looks so darn adorable. And it's partly because it makes you think about the day when your baby may be walking that aisle for real. Gulp.
Originally published in the November 2011 issue of Parents magazine.