In Praise of Older Children

This past weekend, I got to hold a six-week-old baby in my arms while he slept. The weekend before, I got to play cars on the floor with a two-year-old who laughed his head off every time there was a crash. Naturally, these moments make me nostalgic for my own boys’ infant and toddler days. And though we decided long ago that our family was complete, I can see how some people might get the urge to have another baby of their own to experience these things all over again.

But the other night our family played a game of Star Wars Monopoly. With the actual rules. Taking turns. The boys counted out their own spaces, and calculated money. And nobody cried. Not even when they had to pay rent—or missed out on being paid because they weren’t watching. The game went on so long we had to call it and go to bed (it was a toss up who was more tired: me, or my husband.) And the next night, we had a late dinner with another family. The children played with their friends and watched some TV while the adults shared conversation and wine. They were up past their bedtime, and actually slept in the next morning, instead of getting up earlier (which they always seemed to do as babies!) Admittedly BB#2 was a bit “off” the next day, but there were no major meltdowns.

This is not meant to be an “oh gawd I don’t miss sleepless nights and diapers and spit up and tantrums, I’m so glad THAT’S over” kind of post. Babies are amazing and sweet, and toddlers are hilariously adorable. And yes, those years can be hard and there are some things I don’t wish to do all over again. But there is a whole lot more that I miss. Those goofy toothless smiles. The milk-drunk faces. The tiny hands and feet. Playing peekaboo. The errors in speech that are just too darn cute to correct. The amazement at their own accomplishments, like getting food to their mouths, taking first steps, clapping. The magical sound of their laughter.

But these years, the childhood years, are pretty awesome too. At 8.5, BB#1 can read novels in English and French, and every few pages he’s excitedly telling me about something interesting or funny in the book. He can swim, ride a bike, ski, skate. He’s saving for a skateboard, wants to make his own video games, loves to draw cartoons, and is interested in learning about physics. The other day he made himself a fried egg sandwich. He takes a shower without assistance, buckles his own seatbelt, clears his plate without being asked, goes to sleep on his own and doesn’t wake up until I turn on his light the next morning. He’s an amazingly patient, caring big brother.

BB#2 is 5.5 years old. He can read, but will hand me book after book after book, and I love it. He’s fearless in the water, a master at building with Lego, and is a whiz on the Wii. He can get himself dressed in the morning, and even does it sometimes!  He doesn’t cling to me if I’m helping in his classroom, but he’s not too old to give me a big hug in front of all of his friends when I leave. Where I once would have done anything to go grocery shopping alone, I now take him with me on purpose, because he’s good company. He clears his plate when reminded. He says “mommy, I love you” and hugs me out of the blue several times a day. He makes goofy knock-knock jokes and the most hilarious facial expressions. He adores his big brother and wants to do everything that he can do.

I’m not kidding myself it’s all smooth sailing from here. I know the saying: “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” I know the challenges that once consumed our thoughts (weaning, potty learning, introducing solids, naptime, teething…) will seem small in the teen years. Already they seem like forever ago. But we have two amazing children with personality to spare, who say interesting things and ask big questions. Who are independent in so many ways, but still little boys in so many others. Who are sweet and loving and funny and kind and helpful and smart. And for probably the first time, I’m not wishing time away, thinking “it’ll be easier when they are older, bigger, sleeping through the night, out of diapers, out of carseats, in school…” Instead, I’m wishing time would slow down.



Filed under babies, parenting, random, the beautiful boys

4 responses to “In Praise of Older Children

  1. I have been thinking the same thing lately. With my little guy turning 3, leaving his early toddler years behind (some would class him as a preschooler now – I refuse to!) I’ve been admiring other babies, remembering all the things you mentioned. And missing them greatly. I miss cloth diapering, tiny baby clothes, babywearing, watching miracles unfold. We ran out of time to have a third, and I’m not quite at peace with that yet.

    But, then I remember the trials of babyhood. How I spent the first 6 months terrified that my baby would die if I didn’t watch his every breath (is everyone that paranoid?). I remember night-feeds every 2 hours – even with bed-sharing that’s tiring. I love that I have time to sit and knit and watch the two kids play together, without my needing to entertain constantly. I LOVE listening to my daughter read – possibly the best thing I’ve ever experienced as a parent to-date was the day she started coming up to tell me facts she’d just read. And I love watching them develop their talents, growing into their personalities.

    So yeah, there are things that are really worth it. I think I’ll always miss a milk-drunk baby, and the feeling that a human being is content solely because they’re snuggled next to me. But… at every stage I’ve said “I wish I could freeze them right now”, only to find out that the next stage was even more miraculous.

  2. It’s comforting to know someday we’ll get there. We are in the midst of the heaven/hell that is having a toddler and thinking about doing the newborn thing again. My 14 month old is SO much fun and also so exhausting and all consuming. My husband and I were just saying we can’t see getting on a plane again until he’s at least 4 because he can’t sit still for more than 30 seconds.

    • I can see that. We took our first on a plane a couple of times before he was 2, but our second was a much more active child. We didn’t attempt it with him until he was almost 4, and that was a short flight! (And honestly it was the airport more than the flight that was the biggest challenge.) In terms of constant entertainment and supervision, it has gotten easier for us, and I’m enjoying it.

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