Teens vs Toddlers: So Different -- or Are They?

4 years ago

My daughter is sitting in the corner of the living room, pulling gruesome and bizarre faces into her iPad for selfies which she sends to her friends. (This is apparently called Snapchat.) I am being treated to this spectacle because I have protested about the amount of time she spends up in her room on the iPad, even banning it for several days so that I can have the pleasure of her company for a while. She is now clinging to her iPad, but making an effort to sit with us.

I watch her for a moment in fascination, reminded of when as a two-year-old she once sat through an entire haircut pulling these same faces into the mirror. I remember laughing with the hairdresser as she un-self-consciously pouted, smiled, yawned, contorted her eyebrows, and widened and narrowed her eyes. She was so intent upon pulling faces that nobody could get her to keep her head down for the hairdresser to cut the back of her hair, and an amused teenage assistant ended up crouching in front of her with a small mirror, so that she could carry on pulling faces as she looked down.

"You know what this reminds me of?" I say. "That time when you were two-years-old and you kept pulling faces in the mirror at the hairdresser."

She turns on me a well-practiced look of utter disgust, and spits the word, "Mum," with the disdain that only a pubescent child can muster.

"Why do you have to keep reminding me of that all the time? It's not even funny!"

"But you were so adorably cute then," I sigh nostalgically, looking wistfully at her as she scowls back into the iPad and takes a picture of herself. She may or may not be mouthing a rude word.

Yet, although I look back at those days with rose-tinted glasses, this post from Katrina Anne Willis on BlogHer, and this one from AC Melody reminded me that looking after a toddler was not actually the highlight of my life. Teenagers may give you constant backchat, but they never get you up in the middle of the night; actually, they let you lie in (in fact, you have to get them up). When I remember the monotony of watching Dora the Explorer over and over again, the nose-wiping and the potty-training and the hour it took to persuade tiny fingers into gloves -- well, like Katrina Anne, I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

Credit: D Sharon Pruitt.

I have heard the toddler years and the teenage years described as very similar. In both cases, the child is striving for independence and becoming frustrated because they cannot achieve it; they still need their parent to help them, however much they want to do things on their own. I can see the similarities between toddler and teenage tantrums, but I can also see some differences which I feel positive about:

  • You can't lift a teenager up and bodily carry them to bed when they are tired and grumpy, but your back never hurts and you don't have to bend down to take their shoes off. (They can take their own shoes off.)

  • You can (sort of) reason with a teenager

  • Teenagers never embarrass you by having tantrums in public. In fact they are more likely to completely ignore you.

  • Teenagers are wittier than toddlers which makes their moods more entertaining.

And one similarity:

  • Although basically ungrateful for your parenting efforts, teenagers can still surprise you with sudden touching displays of affection, just as toddlers do.

I'm grateful to Katrina Anne Willis and AC Melody for reminding me that, while those toddler years were a delight in many ways, and not something I would have wanted to miss, I can also feel grateful that time has moved on. My stroppy, snapchatting, backchatting daughter is still a source of wonder and fascination, as she grows into her own person -- and, if I squint and pretend she isn't taller than me already; she still looks childishly cute.

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