You’ve heard all the names: the terrible twos. The f*cking fours. The sad sixes. Everyone likes to claim that some age is the worst age. Then it’s “You just wait until you have teenagers, you think they have a smart mouth now. Ha!” Usually whatever age is the worst age corresponds to the age of the child in question. No one says, “Oh, five was so sweet,” until they have a six-year-old. No one goes all gooey about four-year-olds until their kid is seven.
Face it. You always think whatever age and stage your kid is in has to be the worst age, the most annoying age, the most difficult age. You laugh at parents with younger kids. “You just wait until your kid is [insert age here]. Then you’ll really be going bonkers.” We look back with nostalgia at the newborn stage. Do you remember what an absolute wreck you were? Do you remember going days without showering? Do you recall the hurting boobs, the nighttime wake-ups, the screaming for no apparent reason whatsoever?
Nope. You recall snuggling that sweet little angel who could do no wrong.
The Terrible Twos Are The Worst
Anyone who’s had a toddler knows how difficult they can be. Terrible twos, parents claim, are the worst age. They melt down. They get frustrated and scream. They embarrass you in public; they’re impossible to toilet-train even though it seems like every other two-year-old can use their singing princess potty. They want you to sleep in bed with them, and they kick you in the middle of the night.
But when they scream in Target, you can pick them up in one arm and cart their tantruming asses out of there. They pee in the potty eventually (it might take until three). But two is fun. They’re just discovering the wider world around them. They can scribble and mostly sort of talk. They can express preferences. Two can be terrible. But it’s not the worst age. Two is fun.
The F*cking Fours Are The Worst Age
They whine and cry constantly. They’ve just realized they’re not capable of doing things… but they want to do things. They want to do things very badly. This makes them cry. Potty training is technically accomplished, but it’s still in that pee-in-your-princess underwear phase. Everyone says four is the worst age.
Nope. Four-year-olds can draw. They can finally have actual conversations with you, and express preferences regarding music and art. They can sing along to songs on the radio. You can start doing things like art class and real music instead of just… library storytime. If you’re lucky, you can start teaching your four-year-old to read, and to at least recognize letters. They’re probably obsessed with Elmo, but it could be worse. Remember Barney?
The Sad Sixes Suck
No, six is the worst age. I keep telling my husband I’m worried about our six-year-old’s constant crying during the pandemic. He rolls his eyes. “Don’t you remember how much the other kids cried at this age? God, they’re like Prince Hamlet.” Everything is A Big Deal Worth Crying Over. You feel like they should be reading better than they actually read. They’re actually growing up and you miss your baby.
No, six still wants snuggles. Six can draw for real, and do fun crafts. They’ve probably gone beyond “kids chasing a ball” athletics into some kind of real sport. They love the swings, and you don’t have to push them. Their games have become more imaginative. Six is fun.
Oh No, Eight Is The Worst Age
Why do people always claim that every second year is the worst? Eight-year-olds are moody. They swing wildly from one extreme to the other. They aren’t quite tweens, and they aren’t quite kids, and they’re acutely aware of it. The eye rolling begins, but they still throw tantrums. They still need the attention of a younger child but crave the independence of an older one.
Nope. Eight is awesome. They can talk about deeper topics with you, like the size of the universe and the concept of infinity. When they aren’t crying (which still happens sometimes), they probably like to read books that are actually interesting, like biographies and the sinking of the Titanic. They’re also old enough to do things, like make themselves sandwiches and let the dogs out and pick up their stuff. They may not actually do these things. But they’re capable.
Nope. Teenagers Are The Absolute Worst
They hate your rules. They want to have sex. You’re suddenly dealing with some serious eye-rolling and actual drama. You’re worried about porn on the internet and college acceptances and god, will they ever learn to do their f*cking chores without being reminded six times?
But teens can talk to you. Teens can sit down and play real board games, and their insights into life, the universe, and everything can surprise you. You might hate their music. But they probably like yours, too. Their athletic endeavors are actually interesting; and yes, while it’s terrifying that they can drive, you’re no longer the family taxi. They can get a job and earn their own money.
Every age is the worst age.
Every age is the best age.
You see your child at their worst. You see them at their best. It’s natural to laugh at the parents struggling with newborns and diaper bags and think, Just you wait. But remember: they’re having just as difficult a time as you are right now. Parenting isn’t a “this is the worst age” Olympics. You get used to every age. Every age comes with its challenges, but it comes with the good parts, too. You take the good with the bad, the independence with the challenges, the happy with the sad.
What’s the worst age? The newest age, as you meet the new challenges of your kid growing up and look back at the “simplicity” of earlier times. It wasn’t simple. It was hard. You thought it was hard then. And it’s still hard now.
Because in the end, parenting is hard. Is every age the worst age? Yes. Is every age the best age? Yes. Because they’re yours, and you love them.