Why older kids aren’t always easier

Why older kids aren't always easier
How many times have you been frustrated with your kid and said to yourself, “If only he was a little older”?
I remember wondering during the early days just when exactly this parenting thing gets easier. “Three months—that’s when they’re finished with the fourth trimester,” I often heard. “Life starts to feel normal again at about one-year-old,” a coworker said. And to my horror, my brother responded, “Definitely not until three-years-old—that’s when it’s really easy.”

Three years old?! I have to wait for my little guy to reach three-years-old before I can resume my life again?

As my baby eventually grew and reached those supposedly easier milestones, I still found myself saying, “If only he were a little bit older, we wouldn’t have this problem.” Whether it was having to cradle his head in the first few months before he could hold it up on its own, I thought, “If he was three or four months old, I would have a free hand when carrying him.” When he still had to be carried in a car seat to and from the car, I wished, “If only he could walk, I wouldn’t have to carry all these heavy bags plus the car seat.”

And my recent wishing on a star: “If only he were four-years-old, he wouldn’t be throwing these tantrums.” (All you parents with four-year-olds, please let me live blissfully in ignorance for the time being).

Before I come off as a whiny, ungrateful mom, I’m willing to defend myself and assert that this wishful thinking isn’t completely abnormal. For instance:

  • It’s true. Almost everything I wish for comes true—my toddler’s ability to walk on his own has tremendously made transporting him so much easier. And not having to cradle an infant’s head gave me an extra free hand.
  • It’s frustrating. If there’s any job out there that ought to have the freedom to vent as often and as much as they want, it’s parenting. You can’t help but feel for the mom who longs for the day when her kid is finally talking or doesn’t need his food pureed to a pulp.

Even with all those reasons to wish for the day when our kids are older, parenting also doesn’t get easier. Sometimes I forget this, considering that I envy my sister for the ability take a nap whenever she want to because her teenage son doesn’t exactly need his mama to watch over him anymore. But I remind myself that wishing for my toddler to grow up—while absolutely normal—doesn’t solve everything:

  • New problems always arise. When my little guy was a baby, I knew tantrums loomed nearby, but when he’s waking up four times a night and cries every second he’s in the car seat, tantrums seemed eons away, and really, are they that bad compared to my current situation? Unfortunately, age doesn’t erase problems, so much so that as I sit here whining about tantrums, I realize I still don’t have to deal with how he’ll make friends at school or what shenanigans he’ll get into as a teenager.
  • Wishing for the future can take away from relishing in the moment. As much as I complain about whatever current demise I may have, I try to think about something I love about my toddler that’s specific to his age and stage. For instance, during one of the nights when we were still waking up multiple times to feed him, I held him up to burp and delighted in his smallness, wrapped up in his little swaddle, as he lay on my shoulder like a little blob.

When all I can think about is when my toddler finally turns 5, 12 or 18, I turn to these methods to keep me grounded:

  • Find ways to alleviate the problem. Whenever a parenting challenging presents itself, I do my research, talk to my husband, and try to find solutions so that I won’t be so inundated with too many burdens. For instance, when my toddler threw a fiasco and hysterically tried to flee the bathtub, we tried to find different ways to goad him back into the water.
  • Relish the moment. Maybe savoring a tantrum isn’t exactly the most pleasant experience, but perhaps we can try to appreciate other, less-stressful aspects of our kids that will likely disappear in a blink. When my toddler was still speaking with incorrect grammar, I tried to remember how cute he was when he says “to going grandma’s house.”
  • Reminisce with old photos. Nothing makes you go, “Awww…!” more than a cute photo of your kid from a few months ago. When I look through my toddler’s photos, all of those supposedly terrible experiences I experienced with him at that age melted away with that chubby smile or not-so-there hair. I realize how quickly time passes and how much he grows.
  • Try to remember those past terrible experiences. When I try to recall how difficult the first year with my infant was, I admit that I can’t think of too many, despite my claims that they were the most challenging months. While bad days seem like the worst at the moment, given some time, their arduousness tends to fade away. Selective memory, anyone?
  • Accept that it’s difficult. Sometimes simply accepting the ensuing stress is enough to put me at ease. Rather than wish for better times or deny the difficulty I face, I tell myself that this is how it is right now. I can only change what I can, and unfortunately kids’ behavioral development has its own agenda very different from mine.

Yesterday was an “If only he was older…” day. My toddler complained about every little thing. He wouldn’t even let me clip his fingernails, something he has never given me trouble for. But today… today was one of those days where my heart was bursting. My toddler was the perfect kid: happy, compliant, thoughtful, generous. And at the day’s end, I took a mental picture of all that transpired, so that when that “other” day rolls around, I’ll know that my toddler isn’t always so challenging, and that he’s perfectly fine at two-and-a-half years old.

When have you found yourself wishing “If only my child was a little bit older…”? Have you noticed whether your child’s current age is easier or just as difficult as the past?

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13 thoughts on “Why older kids aren’t always easier

  1. Great post–I totally find myself falling into this way of thinking and it has yet to come true! You are so right that while one thing fixes itself, a new thing always comes up in its place.

  2. I love the part about the blackberries! We’ve had this same problem so many times! I will pick him up and even let him look in the fridge for himself. See, mommy wasn’t lying! Such a great and helpful post as always! 🙂

  3. It’s gotten so much easier for us!! Yes, it’s harder in a different way than the baby stage, but for me right now, I am getting full nights of sleep. I can handle it if I am well rested! I will take any tantrum with a full night sleep!! That’s why I secretly am scared to have another one! How will I function with a newborn and a whiny toddler with no sleep. Seriously scares me. But with the tantrums, I can also handle them because I know everyone with a kid this age goes through it. Posts like these can help me to breath through them better!

  4. Awesome post! Love reading your posts!!

    I felt the same way yesterday when we took little man to the splash pads. He was whining and complaining about not socializing with the other kids. But, I stopped and think and told myself…”Well it’s ok he feels this way.” I can’t force him to socialize or force him to enjoy himself. And then, I went inside the water with him and he slowly started to enjoy himself. And we did.

    I do have those “I wish he was older” moments but I realize I rather live in the moment than wishing for something I have no control over.

  5. My theory about the problems of parenthood is that they gradually get worse to prepare you for the next stage and help you learn how to handle your child in a certain situation… or at least that’s what I say to myself when my son said No to juice, I put it back and he starts screaming because he does actually want the juice (happens several times a day) but I still catch myself thinking, “If he was 3/4/5 (delete as appropriate) he would understand that mummy can’t understand the grunting noise and never has/juice doesn’t appear out of thin air/no actually means no/chocolate is not supposed to be eaten in place of meals (again, delete as appropriate)

  6. And then those older kids have kids, and you have the grandkids to worry about. It never ends…………….Enjoy!

  7. I remember my mom telling me that when she was pregnant with me (first of 7 kids) she read a book about parenting your child up til kindergarten and just sat sobbing because she envisioned dealing with all those problems at once…no sleep at night, tantrums, social drama. As she actually lived through it all, she realized that yes, she did at some point have to deal with all those problems, but not at once. When a new challenge came along, an old one had usually dropped off.
    Just today as we were trying to wrangle a partially potty-trained three year old into a diaper, we realized that the new baby will just lie there while getting a diaper change. She may scream or kick, but she can’t argue or actually go anywhere or cause any serious injuries.

  8. I think it’s easier now overall. But maybe different is a better word. The challenges change and maybe it’s easier or not depending on which challenges each of us is better at handling. Some people find sleep deprivation easier to handle than tantrums. Or breastfeeding much harder than making extra food.

  9. Oh gosh. I’m not sure I have ever thought ‘I wish they were older’. I HATE that my kids are getting older (even thought I seem to enjoy each phase more and more). I think your tips are great for all of us parents…relishing the moment and keeping perspective that no matter what new problems will arise no matter what their age! Thanks for the post!

  10. Great post. I don’t usually wish for my daughter to be older (she’s 17 months old). But I definitely wish for more advanced skills.

    Like when she is fussing and I can’t pinpoint what she needs. On those days I feel so sorry for her and me that I wish she could talk and tell me what’s wrong. Parents of older kids tell me that someday I will long for those speechless moments. We’ll see about that.

  11. I suppose I should interject here and clarify that I don’t *literally* wish my kiddo was older. I’m a sucker for “Aw, remember when…” moments where I reminisce over his old photos (some as recent as barely a month ago) and feeling time fly right on by.

    I think Nicole put it well when she said she doesn’t wish for her daughter to be older, but that she would have the advanced skills that comes with older age that I imagine would be pretty useful during fussy times.

    Okay, back to looking at my LO’s baby photos 🙂

  12. This post puts a smile on my face. You are so right about the “wishing” part. There are many things I sometimes wish for: walking without help, not holding on to me for dear life when a stranger enters the room, and the simple act of talking.

    I do have to take a step back sometimes and enjoy the moment; especially now that I have realized this time flies by. When he holds onto me like he’s Spiderman, instead of pushing him away, I now enjoy two long bear hugs, console him with words and then put him down. When he needs my help walking, I put aside whatever I was doing (laundry, dishes, etc) and help him walk.

    I know wishing isn’t the perfect answer but it does help you get through some stressful days.

    Today was my perfect day with Oster. I had a friend over (she has a boy the same age as Oster) and he was an angel. He shared his toys, gave the boy a tour of his dogs (showing him how to pet them), and even sat well during lunch. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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