Life's Personal Milestones

Wed, Aug 19, 2020 5-minute read

As a society we are hallmarked with the milestones; history, is that, a list of milestones, both good and bad which have paved our way to this point in time. This, on the macro level tells a lot about who we are and how we got here, yet these turning points, events of import, are made up from personal milestones. In the scope of society we are but micro contributions to the greater whole, while our milestones are hold gravity in our lives they contribute little or nothing at all to the greater course of events taking place around us.

Does that mean that they are trivial, no, in truth they are quite the opposite.

Through these moments we are able to create the footholds that make up our life. The glad moments of personal success and, yes, failure, that teach us how to appreciate and navigate the world as a whole.

Life is filled with many small steps that make up the path we walk

The idea for this entry, the appreciation of milestones, has recently come into my life through my niece. She will be turning sixteen shortly, (or she has already depending on when I am able to find time to continue writing) and my sister is planning on throwing her a celebration that neither she nor I had the opportunity to enjoy. Our parents were loving but strict when it came to what they allowed us to do. If there was not an overly important reason that something needed to be done they did not see the point. When we both turned 16 years old we got a normal party, just the family, and that was that, nothing more was said on the topic and we went on with our lives.

Why that was I cannot tell you, neither of them spoke openly about the reasons behind their decisions and it was a rather drab childhood.

This is the opposite of what, in my opinion, a childhood should be. It should be colorful and filled with memories.

When my sister and I spoke about children it was usually how we would do things differently. And that, became a cornerstone in our progression to adulthood. Now, all of these years later my nieces and nephews have grown up in a much different environment with a fuller happier home-life. This meant including her in the planning process; she selected the stationary herself and put together a list of foods she wanted to eat with her friends. This included adding a list of foods that they were allergic to, which, I will admit impressed me when my sister told me about it.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. wrote in 2019 about the importance of remembering he milestones in our lives. That includes the ritual celebrations that make up the highlights of our lives. The sweet sixteen is one of these rituals, a coming of age that we celebrate with our daughters, but it is far from the only one.

Dr. Hartwell-Walker stated that they:

  1. Provide structure and predictability in an unpredictable world;
  2. Help people make important transitions;
  3. Foster and affirm connection;
  4. Provide models;
  5. Create memories;
  6. Preserve a culture.

By avoiding or ignoring these you create a blank that needs to be filled. These events are more than trivial pursuits, they provide children with a means of understanding and shaping their surroundings, as Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. phrased it, they provide them with a play book. I do not fault our parents for choosing to disavow them, but we decided early on that we would continue on in this same tradition when we were parents. These is a feeling, that can only be described as a void when you live a Puritan existence.

When you remove the opportunity to establish these various milestones you leave your child without the various patterns they need to navigate their way into adulthood. Why would you leave these out? In pediatrics there is a long list of milestones that are used to understand how your child is developing, and if they is a potential for a problem.

These focus on things like:

  • Language skills;
  • Physical skills;
  • Social skills;
  • Thinking and mental skills.

Doctors use these to create a profile and help them diagnose any potential trouble that may arise, or be in the process of developing. This cannot be said about the other, aforementioned, list, without those the problems do not manifest themselves immediately. They appear later, and they are, for most, a private matter that needs to be worked out to build a picture out of a puzzle with missing pieces.

Of course you can live without a sweet sixteen party, a bridal or baby shower, or any of the many other events that mean so much to us, but you do so at a cost.

Dr. Hartwell-Walker’s first point, “Provide structure and predictability in an unpredictable world,” highlights my point. What they offer isn’t a “day to remember,” though for most it is, but rather a foothold. A chance of knowing what is to come. One person’s foothold is another person’s model, which allows children to put their world in perspective and provide a list of events in a logical order. These milestones provide us with a chance to connect and build memories. All important life transitions do this, but those that are a celebration of community offer the easiest means to move from one to the other with the least amount of friction.

I realize that this may all sound overintellectualized, after all, my niece is only turning 16, she will be having many more birthdays, so “why make a big deal about this one?” Because unlike her grandmother understands, this means a lot of transition in her young life, and that transition should be one that is looked upon fondly.

What most take for granted is that in the US we see this as a first step into adulthood. Children gain enough of our trust that we allow them to drive. (My niece will be getting her license two days after her celebration. The though of her behind the wheel, when it feels like yesterday that we pushed her through the park in a stroller makes my head shake.)

Our lives moves so fast, you need the means to hold on and look at the things that really mean something in them.