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Why Missing Older Kids' Milestones May Matter More

Like many parents, I was obsessed with my children's milestones when they were babies: Her first smile! His first words! Her first time trying solid food! His first step! Luckily, I happened to witness all of these milestones, which every book, magazine, and television show about babies told me was such a big deal. At the time, I would've been devastated had I missed any of those major events. I also always made sure to take dozens of pictures and hours of video so that my husband could share in them, too.

My kids are now turning 9 and 11, and I don't hear about the importance of milestones at this age nearly as much as I did when they were little. But I've surprisingly found that as my kids get older, missing their milestones becomes more difficult. First, there's the fact that when a 4 month old rolls over for the first time, it's not like he's thinking, "Wow, that was a lot of hard work, and I'm so glad my parents are here to see me do that." But when kids have a first ballet recital or make a buzzer-beating shot during a basketball game, you can bet that it's much more special knowing that their moms and dads are beaming in the audience. They'll probably always remember that their parents were there, and they'll certainly remember if they weren't.

My husband, Larry, and I go to ridiculous lengths to make sure we don't miss our children's milestones, big or small. My husband reschedules business trips and I rearrange work interviews to try to make it to everything that might be important to our kids. I've missed birthday dinners, girls' nights out, and even a wedding. But no matter how hard we try, sometimes we just can't help it—especially when our son and daughter have major events on the same day. For instance, my son graduated preschool at the same time and on the same day that my daughter graduated kindergarten at a different school. I couldn't believe our bad luck. We had to tag team on that one. I went to my son's graduation while my husband went to my daughter's. I was so upset about missing my daughter's special ceremony that I even arranged to watch her dress rehearsal the day before.

For some milestones, we know in advance we're going to miss them: Our daughter, who was born in the month of July, has spent the last few summers at sleep away camp, so we've spent her birthday apart. I know her camp arranges celebrations far more exciting and fun than anything I could probably plan, but I still feel an ache all day knowing I can't be with her. I also know that she's having so many incredible experiences that I won't witness—getting up on water skis for the first time, winning a swim meet, performing in the camp play. I love hearing about these accomplishments, but it's still difficult not seeing them firsthand.

Then, there are the unexpected milestones. My husband and I took a trip to New York City a year ago, and our son, who was 7 years old at the time, was just starting to find his stride with baseball. We missed only one of his many (many!) games because of the trip, so during it, I called a mom on our team for an update. I figured she'd just tell me the score, but instead she shouted, "Your son just caught a fly ball! He's so happy!" It was his first fly ball! I remember walking through midtown, feeling a mixture of absolute joy, regret, and sadness. Of course, I was thrilled for him, but I just couldn't believe that we had missed such an exciting event in our son's life.

A year later, my husband missed our son's first homerun because he was traveling for work. And it wasn't just any ordinary homerun—it was the last play of the game; our team was down by one; one kid was on base; and my son's hard hit down the third base line led us straight to victory. I was so happy that I actually cried, but as my son's coaches and teammates ran onto the field to lift him up and celebrate with him all I could think was, "I can't believe Larry missed this." I called my husband to tell him, and he later excitedly went over every split second of the play with our son. However, I knew deep down he was heartbroken.

What's funny is when I look back, I don't remember my husband being all that upset when he missed our children's first words or first steps. So, what makes it so much more difficult for us as they get older? I think it's because we see how hard they work. We watch our daughter religiously practicing the piano and shooting hoops in the front yard. Of course, we want to see her dedication come to fruition at her piano recital and basketball playoffs. We spend hours with our son working on pop flies and helping him perfect his swing, so that's why it was devastating when we missed that first big catch and homerun.

The good news is that while our kids might remember when we miss their milestones, they don't seem that upset about it when we do. That makes me feel better. I want them to always know that their accomplishments are theirs alone, not ours. Of course, they want us to share in everything they do, but they shouldn't feel any less joy or pride when we're not able to.

As for my husband and me, we know that missing milestones will never come easy, but we will continue to try our best. We'll come to events at school even when we're on deadline, and we'll bring the grandparents along for extra support. Hopefully, that effort is what the kids will remember most.