"Enjoy them now... they grow up fast"
How many of you have thought, "I hope so…"
I love babies. I love toddlers even. I do really like the little dependent child who NEEDS me. But as a mother of a 1, 5, 7, and 10 year old, I am also coming to appreciate the independence of the older child.
The first few years of parenting can be rough, but if you parent with understanding and consistency in those early years - a nice kid emerges around age 5. One who is able to communicate needs, wants and desires, thoughts and dreams, frustrations and joys.
The 5-10 age is a great age to parent, and the internal scars we held from engaging in those constant battles with the little ones become badges of courage and determination as we see effects of our persistence.
The older child, not to be confused with the tween or teenager, is really fun to parent. They reason. They have some ability to follow through on multi- step directions. And the older they get, the more they contribute.
They contribute physically, emotionally, and spiritually to the family. About the time my 4 year-old monster turned five she started praying for the poor as well as for a terminally ill classmate. This week she changed her first diaper - no she isn't still in diapers - she changed her little sister’s diaper for the first time. And she wanted to do so because my 10 year old has made such a big deal out of helping with "the baby" - getting her up, changed and dressed every morning. They do their chores, and when they slack, there are consequences that they expect and understand.
And they can reason! This forces me to be a more reasonable mother – but that is good too. They are less self-focused for this hopefully-not-too-brief period. They ask questions about my favorite things or "what I did today" and seem interested about what is going on around them in politics and culture. They are curious and lack the egocentrism of the young children. They seem to recognize ME as a person, and I am able to see them as true individuals too.
Perfect they are not, and all kids are challenging, but developmentally this is a really cool age to parent. My kids all sleep through the night, the older ones don’t nap, they tell me when they are hungry or make snacks themselves, they have easy to enforce bedtimes, they are not into social media or being away from the house without a parent.
My mother always says that she enjoyed parenting every age because it just got better. So far my mom is right.
So next time someone says "enjoy them while they are young" as you are frazzled and exhausted from chasing down your 2 year old while you 4 year old is complaining about everything - smile - it does get better. Hold your ground now and it will pay off later. Age 5 is just around the corner.
Comment below: What is your experience with parenting ages 5-10? If you're not there yet, are you looking forward to it?
This is a guest post from MaryRuth Hackett, who is a wife of 13+ year and a full-time mom to her 4 children. She has a PhD in Education reflecting her passion for Lifespan Human Development. In her academic life she researches, reads, & writes about child development, parenting, identity development and program evaluation. She is a soccer mom who has recently discovered gardening and is an avid reader, although her literature choices are lately limited to the likes of Margaret Wise Brown and Sandra Boynton.