It’s easy to be stupidly nostalgic about toddlers once your kids are grown, but as my children move into teen-hood I find myself wistfully eyeing off those harried young mums herding toddlers. Worse still, I find myself wanting to say that MOST ANNOYING of sentences: ‘Enjoy it, they grow so fast.’
I know. What an annoying middle-aged woman. But hear me out. Little kids, while they are supremely time consuming and frustrating, are SO DELICIOUS.
Here are 11 things I miss about having small children:
1. Their totally random approach to human interaction
Just the other day, my neighbour’s four-year-old ran up to me in the street. Without saying a word she:
- clicked her fingers for me proudly
- demonstrated her best tongue rolling technique
- showed me how she could ‘wink’
(Technically, it was a blink but who’s complaining? Not me.)
After performing this trifecta of new tricks for my amusement, she simply turned on her heel and skipped back to her mother.
It was a beautiful human interaction without small talk and I ADORED IT! So much better than, ‘How are you? Good. How are you? Good. How are you? Good.’
2. 7:30pm bedtime
Look, I know it doesn’t always go to plan, but generally little kids are in bed by 7:30pm. That’s it. The end. Your parenting job is over for at least eight hours. (Well, if you’re one of the lucky ones with kids who actually sleep).
My kids are prowling round the house, making snacks, turning lights on and off and having midnight baths every night. It’s so unrelaxing. Plus I can’t watch anything vaguely inappropriate like Game Of Thrones, lest they wander past while someone’s being bent over a stone banquet table.
3. You generally know what they are up to. And at worst, it’s just something like drawing on walls
Trust me, walls can be cleaned.
Keeping a close eye on a toddler is normal and expected behaviour. Keeping a close eye on older children can have you branded an overbearing helicopter parent.
Older children demand a certain amount of autonomy. It’s just part of their development for you to accept that they will do really dumb things and tacitly allow it. But with that autonomy comes a terrible sense of loss of control and not being able to keep them safe at all times.
With a toddler, as long as they are strapped into some five point restraint chair or playing in a playground with a fence, you know you can relax and they are safe.
I only wish they had five point restraint chairs and fences for teenagers.
4. You can control who their friends are
Before primary school, you are the keymaster in terms of playmates. And you can ever so gently direct them conveniently to the offspring of all your best friends. Which means you can all hang out together and no one has to make awkward ‘we’ve never met but now I’m in your kitchen picking up my kid’ small talk.
Primary school and beyond? You just don’t know who they’re going to hang out with at lunch time or on the bus home from school.
5. You know who the parents of their friends are
Once kids get to a certain age, you are no longer needed in their social circle. It’s like they’re living a separate life to you. Because they are. So when you need to call a parent for something, you have to start the phone call with, ‘I’m so and so, mother of so and so …’ and hope they don’t hang up on you for being a telemarketer.
6. You know what they are thinking
Because they just say it out loud. “I’m sad. I’m scared. I’m angry. I’m happy. I love you, Mum.” Problems can be solved with a kiss, a cuddle or an extra bedtime story.
Ah the simplicity.
Teenagers are mysterious and evasive and always up to something. And I don’t mean drawing on walls. I mean something totally alarming and of the ‘what were you thinking???’ variety that cannot be solved with an extra bedtime story.
7. Lap sitting and cuddles
When my kids were little I was all – ‘get off me, nobody touch me with any part of their skin or body’ but now I really miss being a human armchair. In the hot nights of summer, my middle child used to take up his perch and then assume the ‘jellybean’ position, so as to reduce his overall surface area and not make me too hot.
It was a small courtesy that meant so much to me.
8. What are we going to do today? Go to the park. Yay! Best mum ever
I know. Who even am I? But mark my words, going to the park is the easiest activity you’ve ever known. Moreover, simply taking your kids to the park makes you the BEST MUM EVER when they are little.
Plus, it covers off a lot of parenting ‘must-dos’ in one hit:
- it’s outdoors
- involves physical activity
- it gets them off screens
Thinking of things to do with teenagers that cover off all of the above, not so easy.
9. They love it when adults pay attention to them
Even when you ask them a really boring question like, how old are you? They are so happy to tell you that they even add fractions to give their answer depth.
You can ask little kids any boring question and they are MORE THAN HAPPY to answer you with random unrelated facts.
What’s your favourite colour?
I’ve got a rabbit.
What’s your rabbit’s name?
Mummy’s got a baby in her tummy.
Is it a boy or a girl?
I had pancakes for breakfast.
Awesome. High five. Good talk.
Teenagers? Not so much. Any question from an adult is just lame and boring and HEARD IT BEFORE STOP TALKING TO ME I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF A GROUP CHAT ON INSTAMESSAGE!!! (Or whatever the latest messaging app du jour is.)
10. Birthdays and Christmases are so EXCITING!!!
After the age of about 13, it just becomes an opportunistic cash grab: an annual game of The Price is Right. No one is waking up at dawn to check ‘if Santa has been,’ because no one is waking up … at all.
11. You can tell them they stink and make them take a bath
I mean, you can physically pick them up and plonk them in there. Try doing that with a teenager. I dare you.