In the Green Mountain State, we measure parenthood in Vermont childhood milestones.
When you have a baby, some well-intentioned friend or relation will likely give you a lovely embossed journal to keep track of “precious firsts”. Also, you might download an app for your phone that takes month-by-month progress pictures formatted to fit your Instagram feed. Your pediatrician or family nurse might hand you a checklist of developmental landmarks to watch for, and instill you with useless anxiety about your kiddo’s ranking in the world of baby development. These are ways we track, quantify, and measure childhoods. But what about the Vermont childhood milestones?
Kids have different checkpoints in the Brave Little state.
I grew up on the other side of the continent, but I choose to raise my family in the foothills of the Green Mountains. As a flatlander (a term that makes me chuckle, because have you seen the mountains in British Columbia?) I pay special attention to the unfamiliar details of my daughter’s early lives. There are some magical and strange features that make a Vermont childhood a joy to behold.
Vermont Childhood Milestones:
Birth to six months
First Diaper Blow-out at an Open-air Farmer’s Market
You will never forget the first time you run around a crowded field full of friendly farmers looking for an unobtrusive place to clean poop from your baby’s neck. Pro tip: farmers are cool with bodily functions, but not anywhere near their strawberry harvest. Evacuate back behind the stalls.
12 – 18 Months
First Boot Lost in a Mud Bog
There is real debate about how much value you get from high-quality boots for toddlers. On the one hand, if you are spending any real amount of time outside, strong warm boots make the difference between a playful spree and a grouchfest. On the other, small children seem to feed their boots to some sort of vengeful mud season monster. I now know to buy the best ones I can second hand and hope for quality hand-downs.
First Tantrum Over a Dropped Creemee
First of all, creemees are magic. It is totally understandable that for my three-year-old, dropping such a sweet treat was apocalyptic. For a moment I really thought she was going to summon storm clouds that would rain fire on us all. I expected her to punish the universe for allowing gravity to steal her ice cream, because there is no greater loss than the loss of a creemee. As a result, she got extra sprinkles for the next two years.
First Time Rejecting Table Syrup
As a west coast girl, maple syrup was a decadent delicacy reserved for rich families and fancy restaurants. I can remember the first time I tasted it. I was ten. And yes, it was AMAZING. I never imagined I would live in a place where I could buy a gallon jug of it from my neighbors! Flash-forward to present day Vermont, where my children have delighted in the sweet nectar of the trees most of their lives. But eventually, they traveled to visit family and friends in other parts of the continent. There, they were served… table syrup. They rolled their eyes and demanded fresh pancakes unsullied by this slime. When you reach this milestone, like me, you will be embarrassed and explain, “We just have a lot of maple syrup in Vermont.” Because of this flavor fit, your friends from Oregon will think your kid is a spoiled foodie. They may have a point.
6- 7 Years
First Time Correctly Attaching Skis Unassisted
This one is such a big deal to me, and I honestly know that sounds insane. I can’t tell you why this one is especially relevant to my life. But for some reason, despite the half decade of buckling seat belts and tying shoes, having to strap on someone else’s skis drives me crazy. The first time my youngest clipped her boots in by herself felt like a taste of freedom on par with when she weaned or was toilet trained. Hallelujah, we can just start skiing already!
Able to Hike Faster Than I Can, But Refuses To Join In
While I am no hotshot, hiking is my favorite outdoor activity. I’ve been hauling those children around trails since before they left the womb. Naturally, I believed this early exposure to “Vitamin N” would sow the seeds of deep love for the forests and land. Maybe it did, in the long term. But in the meanwhile, the kiddos must rebel against my great loves. If mama likes it, we must embrace the opposite! Therefore, just as they finally get big enough to carry their own snacks – they refuse to get on the trails. This is probably my punishment for not letting them eat marshmallows for dinner.
Refuse to Wear Suitable Winter Gear
Even in Vermont, children turn into tweens. Maybe we thought we could avoid it with our outdoorsy lifestyles and strong support of local agriculture. But eventually, the child will look out at the February blizzard and say “I don’t need snow pants.” And do you know what? Maybe they don’t! I often don’t need snowpants, though I will gladly don an extra set or silk-weight thermal tights five months of the year. And even as this drives you insane – because it is 10 degrees outside and even the walk from the bus to the school will chill them to the bone – you might need to let them learn that frozen sneaker lesson for themselves. It seems like some kids need to flirt with frostbite.
Because Not Every Child Has the Same Milestones
Finally, remember that every childhood is an adventure of its own making. Maybe your kid’s Vermont childhood milestones include their first Lake Monster’s game more than that first visit to a sugar house. Most of all, give yourself the little moments to notice your kid thriving in their own space.