I hear it said to mothers of young kids all the time: You’re gonna miss this when they’re teens.
But here’s my counter-argument: Maybe you won’t.
Sure, every once in a while, I long for the feel of their baby soft skin and and a glimpse of their toothless grins.
But I don’t miss my kids’ early childhoods. I don’t miss potty-training and packing for a day trip like it was a month-long pilgrimage. I don’t miss tying the same shoes 439 times a day and wiping runny noses twice as much. I think teenagers are pretty darn fun, and I would never, ever want to go back. When I think about my time as a mother of babies and toddlers, it almost makes me break out in hives. The constant fatigue, the mindless TV shows, the annoying music, the physical demands of tending to the needs of four children under the age of five. The memories alone make me want to take to my bed.
Maybe that’s the beauty of growing older with them -- my body isn’t quite as willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning to clean up vomit and diaper explosions. My mind has switched from thinking about baby proofing doors and windows to monitoring curfews and social media profiles. When I look at my 40-something peers who are still in the throes of babyhood, I want to give them a medal… or some vodka. Yeah, definitely vodka. The medal would just be a choking hazard or get flushed down the toilet.
Don’t get me wrong -- I loved my babies and toddlers, and we had grand adventures when they were little. It was a magical time, but I don’t want to go back. I don’t pine for the past or wish I could relive their younger years. In fact, just thinking about grandparenting someday worries me a little. I mean, there’s only so much Dora the Explorer one can watch in one’s lifetime before one’s brain explodes. Has my mind reached maximum capacity? Maybe I’ll feel differently when the grandkids come. I hope I do. (And if being a gaga grandma is an inherited trait, my mom and sister have already proven that I’m in for a whole new phase of unabashed adoration.) But for now, I don’t miss screaming “Backpack! Backpack!” at the TV. I loved Richard Scarry, but I no longer need him to teach us the ABCs. Steve from Blue’s Clues was always a cutie, but life moves on. Maybe middle-aged Steve isn’t so cute anymore.
My teens and tweens turn me into Pure Crazy at times, but I love these ages. They match perfectly with my 43-year-old self. I still like to consider myself to be a little hip, and they still like to laugh hysterically at that firmly-held belief.
As much as I dislike rap music and Pop-Tart hoarding and stinky shoes, I don’t want to go back to Pull-Ups and lost pacifiers for the sake of nostalgia. I like that everyone bathes, dresses, and feeds themselves. It gives me great pleasure to assign dish-washing and dusting duties. I’m happy that they’re responsible for securing their own seat belts. I enjoy not having to cut anyone’s meat or remove the paper from their straws. I like that we can use cowbells for those who choose to ignore their morning alarm clocks. No one barfs directly on me anymore. The conversations we have at the dinner table are fun and funny and challenging and altogether entertaining. I look forward to the adults my kids will become (I get little glimpses of them here and there), but I adore the teenagers they are right now (around 95.3% of the time, roughly).
I’m grateful for Kidz Bop when my kids thought it was the coolest, but I would rather chew my own arm off than pop it into my CD player today.
We much prefer OneRepublic these days.
So, Mamas and Dads, you may or may not miss those youngest of days when your babies are no longer. It’s okay either way, I think. We all experience things the way our hearts guide us. And the best way to experience life is to be present with it -- not living in the past, not wishing for the future.
The infinite wonder of these little creatures is that they grow into independent human beings with their own thoughts and ideas and fashion preferences. And eventually, they learn to drive. And when they drive, they can make late-night ice cream runs.
And that’s pretty fun, too.
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