Tag Archives: baby years

Things I won’t miss about having small children

You may have noticed that many of my recent posts have been nostalgic reflections on the things I miss about when my children were smaller, but time is notorious for tinting the past with rosiness and whitewashing out the things that were not so enjoyable. So this week, I thought I would turn my attention to the things I actually WILL NOT MISS about having small children:

1) Nappies
I feel this one needs little explanation. Seriously, who in their right mind enjoys wiping poo from a wriggling baby (let alone a much larger, much wrigglier toddler!)? Enough said!

2) Having to strap toddlers into car seats
Nothing (well maybe some things, but certainly not many) can be as frustrating as trying to strap a small, uncooperative and surprisingly strong little person into a seat they have no wish to be in and will fight to the death to escape. Many a time I found myself sinking into the driver’s seat in exhaustion, drenched in sweat and bruised from battle as I listened to the piercing shrieks of a safely strapped, but seriously unhappy toddler. When this was accompanied by the hungry bawls of a small baby too, then I knew it was going to be a long drive home. Sigh….

3) Cleaning the high chair table….and its legs………and the back (which surely never even sees the food?) ……and each and every joint in an object that appears to have far more than its fair share of joints!
Who makes these things? And why does the difficulty to clean level of objects appear to rise directly in line with the number of times it needs cleaning? I mean is there no-one looking out for those of us who fail miserably at any type of cleaning-related task?!

4) Learning to read:
Given that I have a deep love of reading, you would think that I would relish the chance to introduce my children to this wonderful world and watch them take their first tentative steps towards independent reading. I thought so too.

I adored the pre-school years when my children and I shared magical moments with a whole host of gorgeously illustrated, beautifully written, (and generally tear-inducing) stories and some of my favourite memories are of reading TO my children and seeing their love of story-telling grow. BUT (and clearly there is a BUT or there would be no post!) when we graduated from shared reading as fun, family time, to big school ‘learning to read’, things rapidly went downhill. I very quickly learnt that, as far as word recognition goes, early readers appear to have the memory of a goldfish!

I get it, honestly I do, reading is an incredibly hard skill to master and English is the most ridiculous language imaginable, but despite all my good intentions to be patient and supportive, after 5 agonising minutes (yes, it seems short, but trust me, it’s longer than you think) listening to a 5 year old attempting to sound out the word ‘she’, it is beyond frustrating when they turn the page to be faced with EXACTLY THE SAME WORD which appears – in spite of the huge efforts only minutes before – to have completely vanished from said 5 year old’s memory leaving them to begin ALL OVER AGAIN in their attempts to sound it out! ARGH! And breathe….

So there you have it, some (but definitely not all) of the things I will not miss about having small children. The things listed above will never (I am willing to bet) make it to a nostalgic blog post where I wax lyrical about how much I miss those nappy-filled days. There are some things about parenthood that are most definitely best left in the past!

Do you have anything you would add to this list?  I am all set to compile list mark 2 so have your say in the comments below. 

 

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This used to be my playground

During half-term I met a friend for coffee in a café on the far side of a nearby park. Walking through the park to meet her, I passed the play park that used to be my regular haunt when the girls were just a little smaller. As I walked round the perimeter heading towards the café, I glanced across at the children and parents climbing and hiding and shouting and laughing and my head was filled with memories of the times I spent there with my own children.

My very first solo walk with my tiny, fragile new born in the gaudy green-checked pram we were kindly gifted from a friend was in that very park and my memory of circling the play park with my heart in my mouth tempting myself to believe that I really was taking a walk in the park with my very own baby, just like a real parent, is still so vivid. I still have the large reddish brown leaf picked up from the path as a memento to place in my baby’s box of memories as a reminder of our very first outing (I started out with good intentions at least, although this habit of collecting keepsakes did not last much past her first birthday, and my second daughter was lucky if I managed to keep her birth certificate somewhere safe!).

As soon as Ana was old enough to sit in a swing, I made this play park my home from home. I quickly discovered that a visit to the park with a 6 month old was not a significant time filler and, after 20 minutes maximum in the toddler swings, we were pretty much all-parked out and ready to move on to the next brief activity, but as she got bigger and began to venture onto the slides, this park became as much part of our routine as tea and cake with friends (and distinctly healthier!).

Many a Saturday morning was spent with Ana, and later her baby sister too, crossing the park to visit the library before wandering round between the climbing frames braving the chilly winds or enjoying the sunshine depending on the season.

Many a day in the summer holidays was spent packing up a picnic and heading to the park to meet with friends and spend a few hours enjoying the luxury of free fun, fresh air and green space offered by a city park.

Many an afternoon was spent standing below the monkey bars waiting to catch a falling child or just to be there as a security blanket as they demonstrated their considerable muscular superiority over their puny mother!

And so, last week, as I walked past the play park, I remembered with fondness the part it has played in our lives. Its role is not quite over for us: at 7 and 9 the girls have not yet outgrown the park and we still visit reasonably frequently and still will for some time I imagine, but the days when it figured as the centre point of our entertainment schedule are fading now.

Much like the rest of parenting, I realised that afternoon that we only really appreciate things when they are soon to be gone. I’ll be the first to admit that I spent many days shivering in that park and wishing I was at home in my nice warm house; I spent many hours cursing as I was begged and cajoled to run round the edge of the lopsided circular tyre shape that has replaced the roundabout in many modern parks but is frustratingly difficult to manoeuvre without scraping your limbs on the floor; I have spent many trips to that very park attempting to find a secluded spot behind a tree for one or other of my daughters to pee because there were no nearby public toilets.

At the time, I did not relish any of these things, but now – when I see my play park years drawing to a close – I rush to cherish those memories, to box them up and hold them close and chide myself to remember the times when this used to be my playground.

Be my baby.

My youngest daughter turns 7 on Sunday and this year, more than most, I am feeling nostalgic about leaving behind the early years of my children’s childhood.

Why is parenthood so bittersweet?

In all the madness and mayhem of life our children are constantly growing: moving away from those precious baby years and into childhood proper. And why is that so hard? Why does the memory repaint the past, conveniently glossing over all the challenges, traumas and sheer hard work of parenting babies and toddlers, leaving the over-riding feeling of loss that those days will never come again?
The joy and excitement that our children are growing, changing and emerging from their babyhood chrysalis into fully fledged little butterflies is tempered by the nagging feeling that we should have done more to cherish the times that have gone before: that we should have hugged our babies close a few more times and breathed in their unique baby-ness a little harder so as to have etched it in our minds to keep forever when we have left all that behind.

I remember how I felt with each passing stage. Sure, there was a tinge of sadness when we packed up the cot and passed it on to someone with a younger family; maybe I felt a little ache of regret when we no longer had a child in need of nappies; but in reality, I had my eye on the prize and the prospect of leaving the house without a nappy bag and change of clothes filled me with an overwhelming sense of relief rather than sadness.

I know I have inwardly whooped with joy on more than one occasion since my children were happily ensconced in backless booster seats and able to put on their own seat belts. The memories of so many frustrated occasions leaning awkwardly over the backseat trying to get the dratted seat belt into the clip are still clear enough in my mind to make me glad on a daily basis that I no longer have to face that task on a rainy day with an uncompliant toddler!

But still I ache sometimes to stand with my baby on my shoulder, rocking gently in that familiar motion, feeling their breath on my cheek.

When I tell other people this they sometimes ask ‘so are you broody then? Do you want another baby?’ But in truth, I don’t. I don’t yearn for another baby to take through those years anew. What I yearn for is the chance to have all the precious moments from my daughters’ baby years gathered in one place so that I could dip in when the feeling takes me and be back in that moment, just as it was, just for a second, just to make it real once again.

It is not another baby I yearn for, and equally I have no desire to go back and re-live those years again. I have moved on; WE have moved on. I love my growing children: I love seeing them becoming themselves, developing personality quirks that are unique to them. I love watching them learn about the world and begin to discover their own talents and interests. I love being able to chat to them about their lives, and my life and LIFE. I love hearing their voices on the phone and realising with a jolt that they sound so grown up.

No. The paradox here is that I want both of these things. I want them to keep growing and changing and yet I also want to be able to stay in the moment. All of their moments.
I want to capture those moments as they happen and keep them in real time so they are not lost in a haze of memories but stay clear and true.

It is not a baby I yearn for, it’s MY babies across all their lifetime. The past, the present and the excitement of the future all wrapped up in one parcel to treasure.

And that’s parenting: joy and excitement; frequent frustration; impatience to move forward and sadness to leave things behind.