I have more than a few parenting theories, but hold one in particular to be undeniably true: babies should be told how brave they are and how proud you are of them, even for the small things and all the time. When my daughter was only a few days old, it occurred to me that every single thing she was doing was new and potentially scary to her: feeding, napping, having a bath. And with those tiny milestones, I was more proud of my baby than I can explain.
We met our daughter in the NICU on her third day of life, and she had some health concerns that not only made me hyper-aware of her feeding and growing in the coming months, but broke my heart for what she had gone through in the few days before we got to her. When I met my girl I knew she was brave. She had already been tough through things most adults have a hard time coping with, and she was barely 72 hours old.
So from the first moment I met her, I was more proud of her than I could ever explain. Of course, lacking the ability to properly articulate my pride didn't stop me from telling her over and over again anyway. With every little milestone, I felt the need to remind her how proud I was and how brave she continues to be.
Her First Feeding
For the first few weeks of her life, feeding my daughter was exhausting. She was what the NICU nurses called a "disorganized eater," meaning she would sort of get herself all wound up when she tried to complete a task. She had to be swaddled tightly, calm, and not distracted. For several weeks, we had to keep one finger under her chin so she would continue to suck against that pressure. Getting her to finish two ounces was an enormous accomplishment, and we were so darn proud of her after every single bottle.
Growing Out Of Diaper Sizes
After that initial shock at the hospital when she was born, every milestone that meant she was growing resulted in our total pride for her accomplishment. It took her a month to grow out of the newborn diapers and, at 16 months, she's still barely filling out size 3's. Now it's more because of her shape — all belly and a tiny booty — but she is and always was holding down the bottom of that growth chart. Buying the next diaper size was cause for celebration!
Sleeping Through The Night
I get totally sappy when I think about those "firsts" that babies do that we're so ready for. But, to them, it must be so scary to do things on their own at first. The first time my daughter slept through the night, I was so proud that she was so brave and I was so proud that we had made her feel comfortable enough in her bed that she was relaxed staying there until morning.
Mastering The Sippy Cup
We went through so many sippy cups before landing on one that she could manage to drink from. I was certain I was going to end up with a collection of 20 different kinds of sippy cups before she figured it out. I was so proud and relieved when she finally found one she liked.
Her First Steps
I knew my daughter was going to start walking at some point, but I wasn't at all prepared for the visceral, emotional reaction it caused. I immediately burst into tears as I watched her lurch across the carpet. It was right before her first birthday, so those big milestone emotions were already running high and I was so proud of how hard she had worked and tried over the past year.
Nearly All Her Airplane Travel
We have had one absolutely disastrous teething/sick/miserable flight with her, but for all of the rest of her 20 flights, including several international, we have been so proud of our little airplane traveler. Since my husband is from Ireland, we're always bopping back and forth between our families and it almost seemed like our daughter understood this was part of the drill from early on. Long may it last!
Her Patience With Our Foster Babies
It's not the easiest thing when you're a baby to have another baby arrive and stay for a few weeks (or a few months). So I was so proud that our daughter took those added members in and welcomed them as much as a baby can. Except when it came to getting bottles, she wasn't ever jealous and seemed to really enjoy having a little buddy around.
New Words In New Contexts
This might seem like such a ridiculous thing, but the first time my daughter recognized a ball that didn't look anything like the one we had at home and still shouted "Ba!" I was so proud (and astonished). How is it possible that babies know what things are when they don't look anything alike sometimes? Between cartoon cats and real cats, there's a pretty big range of things that look vaguely like a cat but are totally different. Still, she manages to say "Meow, meow" whenever she sees any variation. I still can't get over it!
When She Picks Up After Herself
We're still at the very beginning of this phase, with my daughter only 16 months old, but it marks the beginning of the useful child phase (or at least potentially useful). For almost a year since she started moving around, I've been picking up the mess she makes a million times a day. Maybe now we're heading toward her doing that one or two times a day? So proud we've made it to this point.