I love newborns.
Yes, I’m weird.
My favourite age so far is those brand spanking new bubbas. I’ve met many a parent who would well and truly trade the newborn phase for somebody a little sturdier, a little more interesting. Not me. I think that’s why I had four children – because they start off as the most amazing, adorable, tiny and helpless newborns. The koala cuddles, the completely random reflexes, the grunts, the goos, the poos, the squawking cries. The fact they don’t talk and therefore don’t talk back could be a significant part of their appeal.
I’m like a crack addict looking for the next hit – I want to inhale those babies and bottle them in a tiny corner of my heart. When I see a newborn, I HAVE to hold it. I need to physically restrain myself when in the company of strangers who may have a new baby. I’ve learnt to admire from afar and let the mist cloud over my eyes all the while ignoring the aching in my ovaries.
In fact I love babies, sleeplessness and all, until they hit about three.
Three has been my least favourite age so far.
It hit me like a busload of school kids on their way to swimming lessons. I was one of your cocky parents when my first child turned two. I thought, terrible twos? What a load of baloney. It’s because I am an insanely brilliant parent that my child is a reasonable happy two-year-old.
The parenting gods clutched their stomachs as they laughed hysterically and then gave me a three-year-old. It was a horror year. The crying, the screaming and yelling, the stomping and never ending misunderstandings. And that was just me; my darling three-year-old was ten times worse. It was a time of asserting independence, and perhaps because he was my first, I didn’t realise he could do many of the things he was so insistent upon trying. He wanted to open and close the car door (no, you’ll jam your fingers, I’ll do it), turn on each and every light switch as we entered a room (no, you can’t reach, I’ll do it), try the key in the door (no, it’s a bit tricky, I’ll do it), cut his own sandwiches (no, you shouldn’t be playing with knives, I’ll do it) and build a nuclear reactor (no, nobody understands these things). Hindsight – that incredibly useless tool – tells me I should have said “go for it!”. I should have had the kid stitch wallets and set up a stall at the local market too. Instead, I spent most of my time taking over whatever the task was so it could just get done. And done fast. In my defence, I also had a one year old and was perpetually in a hurry to get somewhere: get home, get the baby fed, get the washing on ... So I learnt the painful way that three-year-olds who are determined to try new skills with a parent who doesn’t allow them such freedom, will and do rebel. In a loud way.
I’ve had two subsequent three-year-olds since the first. It’s still a completely and utterly abysmal age, in my eyes, but I’ve learnt to loosen the apron strings and grant them some independence. It means for slower and sloppier Vegemite sandwiches, but it also makes for a more peaceful house. Less screaming means we can see the cuteness that still shines through, on occasion, in a demonic three-year-old.
And as the youngest turns two (or “turns crap” as my husband says), I'm realising that she's peaked early. I’ve never seen a tantrum like it. Stiff board defiance and hysteria that could last hours if we let it. Tantrums are not new to me, but these have the velocity to power a small nation, and are earlier than I’ve experienced. Please tell me this means three will be bliss for us?
As they grow older, I am appreciating something about each age. Before I had children, I found seven to 12-year-olds quite irritating. They were no longer cute like babies or preschoolers, and often started edging towards smartarseness. Now I have two in that age category I am roaring hallelujah! They can dress and feed themselves, and they’re independent enough to make my life easier, but remain respectful and are still malleable. They appear to like their parents most days. It is a joyous time.
Maybe we could find a scheme that shares children around? I’ll have them as newborns and pass them on to the person who loves two to five-year-olds. Then I’m happy to have them back for a while. Teenagers are on the horizon, and I'm reserving judgement about the trials that phase will bring. I’m sure we could recruit someone who’d take a teenager over a newborn though.
If I worked for Disney, I might say that each phase has its pleasures and challenges. But I remember that three-year-old year and that I don’t work for Disney. If I could swear, there would be a string of profanities here to describe that phase in my parenting career. Thankfully, it doesn’t last forever ... and they may eventually go on to have three-year-olds of their own. Suffer in their jocks.
What’s your favourite age so far? Join the conversation in the Essential Baby forum.