One of the questions that I constantly asked my friends with older children is “does it get any easier?” – the answer I’ve been given has always been “No, it gets harder”. Well that really made parenting older kids something to look forward to! For a few years there I was waiting for the most horrid part of parenting to hit me smack bang in the head but…it hasn’t yet. In fact I’ve found the parenting becomes infinitely easier.
My experience has been vastly different to that of my friends. Having spent close to a month with my little cherubs after holidays and Christmas, my position is that it does get easier. Much easier.
Most parents will say it’s a different kind of difficult where the problems or issues you deal with are different, so instead of chasing a 2 year old around the house to get a piece of lego out of their mouth, you’re driving them to soccer training whilst fitting in a ballet class.
I’ve had a child in nappies for the last 7 years, at times I’ve had up to three children in nappies at the same time so I feel like I can speak on this topic with some level of certainty but I do recognize that each child and parent are different. All parents will find some ages more challenging than others but far out, there are some ages where I’m just not the best at coping and could give the kids away and ask for them back once they’re past that ‘difficult stage’. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids more than anything in the world but I think all parents will admit to finding a time or two really tough. Likewise, I’m sure there are times where they want to trade me in for a new Mum but in the interests of comedic relief, go with me here.
I only write with any level of experience with children from the ages of 0 to 7 years old. Beyond that we need to refer back to uber Mum, Jan O’Halloran in her interview HERE to ascertain why teens are the most difficult age to parent.
Here’s a run down of how difficult I’ve found the various ages and stages of parenthood, hopefully to all those women out there who have pre-toddlers and toddlers you will take comfort in the knowledge that, in my opinion it gets SO much easier when they can wipe their own bums.
*EASY (But you’re VERY tired!)
0-6 months old – Amazing beautiful little people and the absolute reason why I have so many kids. I like to call it puppy syndrome, I adore newborns. You can put them down, they move nowhere, you are their source of food so there’s no need to make mashed veges, they sleep for up to three hours at a time allowing Mum to get washing, dishes and rest time and they often only cry when one of four things is bothering them, hunger, tiredness, wet bum or wind.
*OMG IS THIS THE REST OF MY LIFE?
6 months – 1 year old – From my experience, all mine started to crawl at 6 months This is an age I find absolutely exhausting, you need to watch their every move. Nothing is safe. Bookcases aren’t safe, power points are now a death trap, toys are of little interest but everything in the dishwasher is fascinating to them. Nothing small on the floor is allowed. Lego becomes an evil toy. Real food results in exploding nappies that really, really smell. Teeth start to come through which means excruciating nappy rash and they work out that if they put their arms up in the air, you will know they want to be carried for the next three hours. Their routine changes but you cope because you’re still in the throws of babydom let’s face it you still find them oh so cute.
*CAN SOMEONE WAKE ME UP WHEN THIS IS OVER?
1-2 year old: This is an age where I’ve often fallen pregnant again because I’ve missed the newborn cuteness and I start to lose my mind. I don’t cope with this age very well at all. My kids have all learned that if they yell loud enough, I give in. They get fussy about food, no, actually they throw their bloody food and they find a level of independence and try to feed themselves, generally unsuccessfully. My little ones try to keep up with the big kids and therefore get frustrated that they can’t absail, play soccer or ride a bike at the age of one. They’re constantly hungry and find the tupperware draws way more interesting than any Fisher Price toy that Santa has purchased meaning you spend hours of your life picking up plastic from the floor. They love bathtime and discover they can get into the bath alone so again, you become a Baywatch lifeguard whenever you know there’s even a bucket of water around. This age objects to being in a pram when you go out for a coffee, to the shops and they have the ability to arch their back in objection when putting them into a car seat. Toilets and toilet paper become the most fascinating thing to a 1 year old and they have no concept of what blocking a toilet with paper, pens, toys and anything they can find means. They have no fear and therefore spiders, reptiles and kissing foreign dogs is another thing to look out for. They do however start to talk and give things their own special name. This is a precious time for talking and discovering, just not for the parents!
*PHEW, IT’S OVER, THAT WASN’T SO BAD
2-4 year old: Well they’re walking and have slightly more balance than a toddler, they’re becoming a little person and they are discovering the world. The art of painting is understood whilst not always followed and they have the patience to sit through a TV show or two in order to give Mum a break from watching them 24/7. They can even pass you the washing if you’re hanging it on the line. They can use utensils, get out of the highchair and if you’re lucky they move into a big bed and get toilet trained – BLISS! The downside to this is the accidents that happen when you’re toilet training them ewww…….They start to ask questions, the really funny kind and they say the cutest things because words get very mixed up. They have the ability to communicate and tell you if they have a sore ear or tummy. I’m not sure when the saying the terrible two’s came from because most of my girlfriends and I have agreed that the terrible three’s have been more prevalent in our homes. It’s only through frustration however, they can be hungry and tired all at the same time and they will often go through that “I’m not going to sleep when you want me to” phase but that’s why it’s called a phase…it passes. You’re still busy at this time because they can’t really help themselves with a lot of stuff, Mum is still no 1 when it comes to needs and wants and you can often feel like ‘the lady who is slave to the children’, on the flipside it’s a great time to truly teach them how to ‘play’ as they love to learn and mimic you.
*DELIGHTFUL, DELICIOUS, I LOVE THAT I HAD KIDS
4-6 year old: Just before school they’re climbing the walls because they’re bored. School is the best thing that ever happened to 5 year olds, they’re more than ready by the time they go. In the year before school they mature and almost grow up in front of you. In my experience they start to enjoy cooking cupcakes, cakes, pancakes, sandwiches, anything really as well as sports.They beg for one on one time with one parent or another. They can also be very demanding because they realize their voice and when to use it but overall, 4-6 years old is a precious time. You see your baby go from a little person to a big school aged kid who’s soaks up more information than we did at the same age. By the end of kindergarten they’re writing sentences, talking about grammar and discussing fractions at the dinner table, scary really. They become highly influenced by friends and particularly TV shows and you start to notice that they know the Top 10 songs on radio before you do making you feel very old. They know their way around an iphone better than you do and you have to ask a 6 year old how to put a DVD on the tele for the younger kids, it’s surreal and wonderful all at the same time.
*UH OH, IS THIS WHAT MY FRIENDS ARE TALKING ABOUT?
7 years plus: I can only talk of this age for the last couple of months, perhaps this is where it starts to get difficult? Most of the kids I’ve heard of around this age learn how to be cheeky little devils, they can run faster then Mum and they push the boundaries when it comes to do’s and don’ts. My little one fortunately has a conscience and after a few lectures, realizes that the cheekiness isn’t acceptable but certainly keeps pushing the adults to see how far it will take us to snap. They are at the ‘look at me Mum’ stage where you must watch every cartwheel or backflip they do into the pool and they can pack a mean punch when it comes to younger siblings by starting to understand their own strength. They listen to adult conversations and ask questions that makes you realize you should have kept up Latin or French so you could speak another language to your partner. They are like a detective when it comes to Christmas and working out what type of wrapping paper Santa used compared to the paper under the tree. Sport, birthday parties, friends and popular culture becomes the centre or their universe and you start to become the ‘taxi driver’ just dropping off and picking up to various events that your 7 year old has organized. That said, you can reason with a 7 year old, they get it and they understand fully what consequences can come with being revolting. They want to please you therefore reminding them about manners becomes less frequent. They still have their innocence which is so precious to protect as they are children for such a small amount of time and they love love love cuddles. Apparently they get a big injection of hormones at 7 which is why they can be laughing one minute and in tears the next but just because they can’t be picked up anymore, doesn’t mean their any less deserving of a cuddle!
Perhaps we’re about to enter that tough phase? Not sure but what I do know is that each child is different and every parent has an age and stage where they honestly want to throw their arms in the air and thing “what can you throw at me next”. I’ve spent years loving and then wondering what I got myself into but for me, the ages of 1-3 are most certainly the most difficult, from there on in, it really does get easier in terms of the physical work you have to do. I’m not sure about the mental and emotional stages a parent goes through with teens….erk, still have all that ahead of me!
Good luck to any Mums and Dad’s of small kids under about 4 years old, all I can tell you is, it gets easier, much easier!