Every so often, I will see a friend post something on Facebook along the lines of this: “OMG. Just saw my friend’s new baby. My ovaries exploded! Newborns are the best!” I immediately think, Seriously?! Do you not remember the leaky boobs, spit-up, and near-manic sleep deprivation?
Or I will overhear a mother at the park reminiscing about how great the toddler stage was when her kid “said the cutest things” (i.e., he swore—in public). And I want to shout: Do you not remember why they are called threenagers?!
Other parents will talk about how “totes fab!” it is to be the parents of teens because you can borrow their clothes and keep up with the latest slang (i.e., you will know what “bae” means). REALLY?! Because you sound kind of ridiculous using the phrase “totes fab” in a sentence.
In any event, the question of the best parenting stage is as much a hot-button issue as whether to get an epidural or buy a 3-year-old an iPad. And if you put a handful of parents in a room, you will get a handful of different answers to the question of what parenting stage is the best. So in an effort to end the controversy, I will break it down for you.
Pros: They are soft and squishy and so stinking cute. They sleep around 20 hours a day, and they are relatively portable. Strap a baby into her car seat, and you’re off to Whole Foods or the new restaurant around the corner. It’s almost like wearing the new Coach purse, except that the car seat weighs approximately 73 pounds.
Cons: Even though they sleep most of the day, that “sleep” is done in 37-minute increments, which coincidentally is exactly the amount of time it takes a new mom to shower, put on a shirt that doesn’t stink of spit-up, and chug a cup of lukewarm coffee. So you’re pretty much never sleeping. When they start screaming in public and the boob or bottle doesn’t work, it’s anybody’s guess what the fuck is wrong and you have to sprint the hell out of the restaurant with sweat dripping down your back leaving behind a half-eaten burger and plate of fries.
Pros: They are cute and squishy, toddling around on their new walking legs. They nap and might even be sleeping through the night, which means that you are starting to feel a little more normal-ish. Best of all, they can tell you what’s wrong when they cry. Me whan me-ka (translation: I want milk).
Cons: Everything from electrical outlets and cleaning supplies to tweezers and lipstick becomes a death trap. And although they can tell you when they want milk, they will also have a 43-minute tantrum when you give them the milk in the blue sippy cup instead of the orange one.
Pros: You get a couple hours break while they are at school in the morning. They come home from their morning at school exhausted and ready for a nap. You are their favorite person in the world.
Cons: They are like a walking tornado of activity when they aren’t at school or napping, which means you are more exhausted than you were in the baby stage. The preschool handiwork they bring home nearly consumes your house in glitter. And their attitude and mood swings rival those of an angsty, hormonal teenager.
Grade School Stage
Pros: You are in what many people affectionately call “the sweet spot” when the magic of childhood is very much alive, but now they can dress themselves, wipe their own butts, and they spend seven hours off at school each day. They can turn on the television on Saturday mornings and entertain themselves. And they know how to fix the iPad when it’s acting all wonky.
Cons: Third-grade math is much harder than it was when you were a third-grader. Five minutes after the television is turned on, you can hear the sounds of an all-out brawl over whether to watch Regular Show or Star Wars coming from the family room. And they are utterly apoplectic when their Minecraft house is destroyed.
Pros: They don’t hate us.
Pros: You can see them developing into the mini-adults they are about to become. You can enjoy the same activities together, whether it’s shopping or reading or baseball. They get themselves to school, do their own homework, and manage their own social lives.
Cons: The worries get bigger: sexting, drugs, and who finished the bottle of wine in the back of the fridge. They can drive themselves around town, but they forget to put gas in the car. They speak in acronyms and slang, so you have no idea what they hell they are saying. Oh, and the eye-rolling. The motherfucking eye-rolling.
But for better or worse, they will soon be off on their own.
So there you have it: the pros and cons of each parenting stage. That should settle the debate, right?
No? It doesn’t? What’s my favorite stage? Well, the answer has been the same for the past 10 years that I’ve been a parent. My favorite stage has always been whatever stage we’re in.