Don’t Worry! Its Just A Stage! by Noreen Braman
Like any parent, I can recite the dates and times of my child’s developmental milestones. Those famous firsts: first tooth, first steps, first words, all clearly remembered. Are they recalled so well because of instinctive pride? Hardly.
We remember them vividly because these events represent periods of parental relief. Parents of toddlers are like beginning water skiers, holding on for life as their child careens through all those celebrated “stages”.
We remember the Sleeping All Night milestone because it ends the Mixed Up Days and Nights Syndrome. Usually the infamous Teething Stage begins thereafter and each tooth is applauded for the few nights of unbroken sleep it brings.
First Steps are a thrill for parents, until we realize it heralds the Getting Into Everything phase, which arrives hand-in-hand with the Can’t Sit Still Stage.
During this time of constant motion, most children speak their first words and utter their first sentences. Fascination with the child’s speech dulls after spending days and weeks trying to comprehend and then translating for everyone else. Then, the baby talk clears and real conversations begin. If we are lucky enough to have them potty-trained by this time, we may think we see light at the end of the tunnel.
But there are more several more tricks up those innocent toddler sleeves. Parents of children in the “No” Stage know the meaning of exasperation. Following this is the equally trying “Why?” Stage. Reasonable people turn into screaming maniacs after spending a day with a “Why” child.
Somewhere around the time my oldest started school without a hint of the Won’t Do Homework phase and my youngest finally came out of the Terrible Twos, having thoroughly enjoyed his stint as dictator, I began to think that I could handle anything a preschooler threw at me. However, the middle child, in a brave effort to break out of the pack, invented a new stage, the “What If” Stage. Annemarie developed this infuriating game into a science.
For example, we were seated in a family restaurant, waiting and waiting for dinner. Annemarie wanted to know (as did we all) why it was taking so long. We explained several possibilities, but she wasn’t satisfied.
“I’m so hungry, I’m going to throw up!” she announced loudly. Hushing only encouraged her.
“What if I really did throw up in here?” she continued. We tried to pass over the question.
“What if someone just kept throwing up and couldn’t stop?”
Parties at nearby tables began to look uncomfortable. We whispered threats, but Annemarie had a whole restaurant of people to entertain.
“What if someone just walked by and threw up on my food? What if the waitress tried to clean it up and she started to throw up?”
The families around us put down their utensils and stared menacingly at us.
“What if I didn’t see them throw up in my plate and I ate it?”
After this remark the room was strangely silent. When I had the courage to look up, I saw the restaurant was empty. My oldest daughter was holding a napkin to her mouth and I began searching my pockets for the car keys.
“Where everybody go?” asked the baby.
For quite a time after that, when out to dinner with my children, curious strangers would ask about the bag over my daughter’s head.
I told them she’s just going through a stage.
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