Despite how exhausting the baby and toddler years are—and they sure are exhausting—every mom feels that pit in her stomach when she realizes those years really are behind her forever. No more adorable mispronunciations; no more squishy toddler toes; no more training wheels. I feel it when I pass by Gymboree at the mall and have no reason to pop inside. I feel it when I mistake the girls’ socks for mine. I feel it when I notice the snuggles getting fewer and farther between, and the eye rolling getting more frequent.
But now that I’ve officially settled in to the elementary stage (my girls are in 1st and 2nd grade), I have to say there are a lot of things that are just plain awesome about the kids getting older. So for any mamas out there who are getting wistful or downright depressed about leaving the baby years behind, here is a little sweet to go with your bitter. And for those moms in the trenches who are having trouble seeing the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the tantrum tunnel, here is some encouragement that things really do get easier.
1. The games, TV shows, and books get WAY more tolerable. You know that mind-numbing game where you pick a card that has three ducks on it and then…wait for it…you move your piece three spaces? That board book with the worn-out flaps that you hid in the kitchen cabinet because you just couldn’t read it one more time? And that moment when you found yourself wanting to punch The Map in the face for telling you FIVE TIMES IN A ROW how to get to Abuela’s house?
Eventually you’ll play games that require actual strategic thinking (you might even lose without trying). You’ll get to introduce your kids to the great books, with real plots, that you loved as a child (Encyclopedia Brown, anyone?). And you’ll get to watch shows featuring live people who don’t speak at a pitch that summons dogs.
2. You’ll save a ton of money on batteries. There was a point when we were probably spending $50 a month just to power all of the swinging, beeping, talking, music-playing, and motoring mayhem that went on at our house. Now a Costco-sized package of AA’s lasts us for years.
3. Fewer giant, messy crafts. Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely adored my daughters’ preschools and their teachers. But every day I died a little when I unloaded their cubbies stuffed with huge “abstract” drawings, popsicle stick concoctions that fell apart before we got to the car, and half-dried paint projects that would inevitably leave a lovely imprint on my shirt. My kids still love arts and crafts, but now the projects aren’t as nearly as large, disastrous, or frequent.
4. Their clothing lasts longer. I was shocked when I went through the girls’ clothes and shoes from last year and realized that a lot of things still fit! For the first time since they’ve been born, I actually had to throw away a pair of sneakers because they were completely worn through before they were outgrown. It’s definitely a money and time-saver not having to buy a new wardrobe every season.
5. The kids can truly help you around the house. It’s super cute when toddlers want to help you bake or vacuum or fold laundry. It’s also not helpful. At all. Watching my daughters make their beds neatly, accurately measure a cup of flour without half of it ending up on the floor, and sort a huge laundry basket full of socks fills me with sheer joy.
6. You can go to better restaurants. We’re by no means ready for any fine dining establishments yet, but going out to eat as a family no longer means seeking out the back corner table at Chili’s at 4:30 p.m. My girls can be trusted not to throw anything, lick the table, or unleash primal screams for no reason, and my husband and I actually have time to chew and swallow our food.
7. Discipline is easier. At three years old, my oldest daughter used to taunt me from her timeout spot, laughing and singing, “Timeout is fun…I love timeout…Lalalalalalala.” Now all I have to do is subtly suggest that a certain someone might have to miss a certain birthday party if she doesn’t straighten up, and she’s instantly transformed into a perfect, well-behaved angel.
8. You’ll use your brain again. If for no other reason than to help the kids with their Common Core math homework.
9. You don’t need to wipe anyone’s butt except your own. No further explanation needed.
10. You’ll finally see your hard work paying off.
Those countless times you sang the ABCs, pointed out colors, and numbered the Cheerios as you tossed them onto the stroller tray…
The nights you rocked them to sleep while crying tears of exhaustion (and then did it again when they woke up 45 minutes later)…
Those times you felt like a broken record reminding them to say “please” and “thank you,” and wondering if it would ever sink in…
The 50 parenting books you read that only weakened your confidence in your “motherly instincts”…
The times you chastised yourself for giving up breastfeeding earlier than you planned, or letting them watch too much TV, or not teaching baby signs, or bathing them with soap you later found out killed lab rats (whatever—it said it was all natural)…
When the babies are tiny, it’s so hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. But as they get older, you realize that you were. Or, even if you weren’t, the kids are OK anyway. They’re actually pretty great. And they don’t even remember that time you lost it and kicked their favorite toy across the room because it wouldn’t stop talking.
One day you’ll look at them, and despite feeling wistful that the chubby cheeks and Robeez are gone, you’ll be amazed at the people that are beginning to emerge. They will make jokes that are actually funny. They will say kind things when they don’t know you’re listening. They will begin to evolve into who they’re going to be—individuals with unique personalities, compassion, talents, and gifts.
I know there may be difficult years ahead (or so I’m told by the moms of teens), but I’m trying to enjoy each phase as it comes. And yet, I’m forever grateful for the videos, photos, and plastic bins that allow me to hold on to the ones that have passed.
Related post: The Light At The End of the Tunnel