Babies are the coolest. Sure, they poop a lot and make a tremendous amount of noise for such small creatures, but they are sweet. They smell heavenly after a bath, and the first time they recognize you with a smile, you forget all about the poop and the wailing. Watching them discover their hands and feet provides tireless hours of entertainment. When someone else is holding them and they reach for you, then snuggle up against you like a tree frog, there is nothing better.
Toddlers get a bad rap, but it's mostly because they abuse the word "no." It's "no" this and "no" that, and there isn't a parent alive who likes being bossed around by such a small, sassy human. What some people fail to see is how funny this stage can be.
Think how frustrating it is to be in a place where you don't really speak the language, and people are constantly yipping at you to do stuff or not do stuff. That would get really annoying. It's no wonder toddlers lash out with the easiest word in the English language to say (at least phonetically): "no." This can be such a fun stage if you learn to secretly enjoy your toddler's budding attitude and empathize with their frustrating existence. Plus, the clothes at this age are mind-blowingly cute — they're just like ours, only way smaller.
This has to be one of the most enjoyable stages for parents. The sass is still there, but now that preschoolers' vocabulary has increased, they are less frustrated and the freak-outs are fewer. While their vocabulary is better, they still mangle phrases, words and song lyrics in a way that is side-splittingly funny. Write these verbal mutilations down; they'll provide countless laughs for your family in the future. The best thing about preschoolers is that they are old enough to watch a feature-length Disney movie, giving you a much-needed break. They also adore their parents. They want to please, and they think the sun rises and sets with you. Enjoy it.
Having a first-, second-, third- or fourth-grader is an enlightening stage for parents because their children's lives are filled with so much drama. Johnny scribbled on your son's art project. The teacher complimented Suzy's dress but not your daughter's. Your son watched someone trip a playmate at recess — on purpose (gasp). During these years, your kids will come home with tales that have made a profound impact on them, but you must internalize your giggling. Instead, join in on the emotion they are feeling. It validates them and helps you form a bond that you're really going to need when they are teenagers.
Tweens are kind of a pain. They think, act and dress like they are grown up, but they so are not. What's awesome about this stage is that it's right about the time parents start to learn that their kids were put in their lives to teach them something, when all along they've been thinking it's the other way around. It's also a fun stage because there are lots of opportunities for big talks. Pre-teens will start hinting around heavy topics like sex, drugs, alcohol and bullying. Be alert and seize these opportunities, which will — once again — bring you closer together.
Parents who dread the teenage years are looking at it all wrong. The opportunity for personal growth that tweens provide is amplified with teens. The real perk to having teens is more drivers in the house. Parents should not fear this; they should embrace it. Now you have your own little army of personal assistants who can get groceries, help with dinner (and cleanup), do their own laundry, mow the lawn and a whole host of other things you're sick of doing. The key to keeping teens from becoming a hassle is to keep them busy. They might still make you crazy, but you won't be as tired.
A favorite stage is when your baby goes to college and then graduates. Yay! You raised someone who is hopefully not a burden to society and is making the world a better place. How good does that feel? Now they can embark on a career and take you to dinner for a change. Watching the incredible people that your children have become is a daily reward for all the un-awesome things you had to endure along the way.
So, did you pick up on a theme? Enjoying every stage of your child's life is about having an incredible sense of humor and a healthy perspective. Like most challenges in life, the key to enjoying every stage of your child's development is in your attitude, not theirs.
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