My youngest child — my third baby and my only boy — just turned 8. Eight. It seems impossible that my youngest kid is that old, yet here we are. Time keeps going, and kids keep growing.
Part of me yearns to hold the small, chubby hand of my teenager when she was 4. Part of me deeply misses my 12-year-old’s toothy toddler grin. Part of me aches for my boy dancing his little toddler heart out at my husband’s company’s holiday party five years ago. Part of me wants to scream, “Turn this train around!”
But part of me doesn’t miss those years at all. And that part of me wants to tell you moms of little ones to hang in there, because it really does get easier.
I know that what you usually hear from those of us who’ve moved on to the Big Kid Years is “Enjoy them when they’re little!” “These years are so precious!” or some such “You’ll miss these days” version of nostalgic wistfulness. Many of us tend to look back on babyhood, toddlerhood, and early childhood with rose-colored glasses. In the face of complex tween and teen challenges, we recall the difficulties of the twos and threes as simpler times.
While we remember the adorableness and the sweetness and the softness of those years, we forget how demanding they were. We forget the constant needs, the constant attention, the constant work that went along with all that cuteness. We downplay the exhaustion in our memories and forget what it was like to be completely touched-out at the end of each day.
I have heard parents say that parenting doesn’t get easier, it just gets hard in different ways. I think there is some truth to that (I’ve even said it myself), but I think it understates how much things change physically and logistically when your youngest turns 6 or 7. There’s a major shift right around that stage.
It’s like a whole new world. And let me tell you, it is glorious.
Emotionally, parenting is always touch and go, of course. There are big kid issues that will bring you to your knees, no doubt. I can’t say it gets easier across the board.
But you will sleep again, all night long. You will be able to send your kids outside to play without keeping your eye on them every second. You will not have to follow them from room to room to make sure they don’t get into something they shouldn’t.
Your kids will be able to make their own food. They’ll be able to buckle themselves in the car, quickly and efficiently. They’ll be able to get themselves ready for bed (with reminders, of course, but without you having to do the work). They’ll be able to go to the bathroom on their own without yelling for you to wipe them.
You will regularly have time to yourself again. You will have more energy. You will still be busy with kid things, but it won’t be the nonstop attention-fest it is when they are little. You will slowly but surely come back to life, a stronger yet softer version of yourself.
Some parts of parenting go by too fast, and others feel like they can’t go by fast enough. Each stage has its joys and challenges, and none of it is easy. Raising kids is hard work, but raising little kids is hard work plus insanity, plus messiness, plus exhaustion. It’s miraculous that we even survive it, frankly. We older moms don’t always recall how freaking relentless parenting is when the kids are little, but it really is. You’re not crazy. I just want to tell you while you’re in these trenches that it will not always be so.
Enjoy what you can of these years, cry your way through the rough spots when you need to, but know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Someday you’ll miss the sweetness and magic of having little ones, but you won’t miss the work. I’ve been where you are, and I promise it will get easier in all the ways that it’s tough now. Just keep on keepin’ on, Mamas. You’ve got this.