10 Precious Toddler Milestones Your Doctor Won't Ask About

No, these aren't the textbook developments—but they're the ones that melt your heart.

alice dubin and family
Photo: Alesandra Dubin

We've all read a thousand books (and plumbed the dark corners of the Internet, even though we know we shouldn't) to learn about appropriate milestones for our babies and toddlers. From our kids' births, many of us nerve-wrackingly endeavored to make sure they were rolling, crawling, walking, and talking on time.

But what all the textbooks miss are those precious other milestones. Not the developmental ones that the pediatrician asks about at well baby visits (that's my family in the pic at our most recent appointment)—but the sweet, sentimental stuff that unfolds before our watery eyes with each passing day.

My twins are 19 months now, and they have plenty of these toddler milestones yet to hit. But here are 10 of the slobbery, totally unscientific milestones that have melted my heart, for better or for worse, so far.

1. The First Sentence

The doctor has been asking how many words each toddler has from the time of their 15-month visit, and my husband and I have tried to keep count as their vocabulary grows. But one amazing thing that caught me by surprise was my babies' first actual sentence—the first time they actually strung two words together. My kids' first sentence? (Wait for it.) "Happy day." Yes, both of my toddlers learned how to say this adorable, optimistic phrase at the same time, probably because they heard people say "happy birthday" to their daddy so many times that particular week. Happy day, indeed!

2. The First Show of Sibling Love

Given that my kids are twins, I always knew (or at least hoped and expected) that their relationship would be a unique and special one. They're not yet at the point when they hold hands or give each other hugs, but when I first started to hear them in the morning cracking themselves up—in their special twin language—while playing side-by-side in their cribs? Divine.

3. The First Expression of Rhythm

It seems no one is immune to the ear worm "Watch Me" by Silento. When I first watched my son shifting rhythmically—I wouldn't quite call it dancing yet—to that song in his high chair, my heart melted. My daughter followed. And now, they dance up a storm whenever music comes on. (They're not very discriminating among genres, but they do favor reggae.)

4. The First Restaurant Meal

When the babes were teeny tiny, and we were busily measuring milk down to the milliliter, I looked forward to a more casual time when they could eat more like ordinary people—say, even at a restaurant. Well, in recent months, when we've gone out to eat, we've begun to order meals of the kids' own—for instance, a pancake breakfast with fruit, from the kids' menu, instead of something infant-friendly plucked from the diaper bag. Fortunately (for my wallet), they're still small enough to share one meal between the two of them, but ordering for them does add a bit of fun to the experience.

5. The First Stroll Without the Stroller

I so enjoyed the stroller walks of my early days with twins. And I also knew the day would come when they wouldn't want to pass endless hours strolling along with me that way. Well, recently we were invited to a neighbor's house for dinner. It was the first place we could actually walk—all four of us in the family, using our feet alone. Right in that very instant, I felt like I watched them turn into kids instead of babies. (Next, they'll be off to college. Sniff!)

6. The First Signs of Distinct Personality

When my twins were small, we always assumed my son would be the boisterous one...but it turned out we were confusing colic for personality traits. These days, my kids' real personalities have begun to emerge, and watching the little demonstrations has been charming. Nothing fazes my daughter, who is game for any adventure, with anybody, at any time—like me. My son is relatively more circumspect and homebody-ish—like my husband. What a thrill to see them become tiny humans who know what they like!

7. The First (Little) Injury

OK, this one is more tragic than sweet, but of course it's poignant nevertheless: Now my kids are old enough, and mobile enough, that they can get into some trouble while exploring the world. Trying to reach something unreachable from the mantle, my son conked right down onto the fireplace tile face first and busted his lip, drawing blood. Sad as it was for me to see, it was also gratifying as his mom to be able to kiss it and make it better.

8. The First All-Out Tantrum

I wouldn't call this one sweet either—but it's certainly a milestone. My daughter loved the part in her first music class when the teacher passed out the egg shakers. But she did not love the part where she had to give them back at the end of the song. In fact, she screamed like a banshee, and then put her head down on the floor in the middle of class, immovable. Turns out the terrible twos paid us an early visit. Was that first tantrum—and the ones that have followed—fun? Absolutely not. But it's also a reminder that she's not a little baby anymore...and that part is poignant and powerful.

9. The First Projects

Sure, my kids have always had a ton of toys to bash around. But now they actually use their play tools to create—and it makes me so proud! For instance, I remember that first time I watched them scrawl on paper using restaurant crayons—instead of eating them. And now they stack Lego blocks, 10 tall. Future artists and engineers, no doubt. (Or both at once...or whatever they want to be!)

10. The First Time Giving Kisses

OK, I'm reaching here: My toddlers have yet to give us proper kisses. (Though I do look forward to those precious smooches!) But they have figured out something close enough. When they were away for a weekend at their grandparents' house, they came back with a new trick. My mom said, "Look how they learned to blow kisses!" And sure enough: My kids moved their hands to their mouths—or somewhere approximately in that area on their faces—and then waved their tiny digits in the air like a little salute. Sweetest thing ever!

Alesandra Dubin is a twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Twitter.

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