Once, a long time ago, when we just had one baby, we ran into a friend of ours in the chip aisle of a grocery store. He had several young daughters of varying ages at the time, and offered us this little gem of Child Development to my wife’s question of “What’s your favorite age of your children”:
He said something along the lines of this: “Oh, they’re all my favorite. You get to one stage, and you think that this is the best stage. But then you get to the next one and you realize things are even better.”
I agree with him. Every stage that a child goes through is unique and brings with it a new and different aspect to your child. You spend your life raising a child as you get to know her. It's a life of discovery.
For example, last night, we taught our older girls how to play 9 Card, a card game that we play a lot with friends and family. It’s a fairly simple game, and they picked it up immediately. So… now we don’t have to wait for others to come over to play it. This is one reason why we bought so many board games for 4 or more players when we were first married. The goal was to one day be able to play them with our kids.
Well, here we are now, 11 years later, having that first game night, not playing kid games. It’s my favorite age, in that respect.
But then, I look at our four year old, Caroline. She’s finally getting out of that 3 year old angst, and, instead, fully inhabits that funny and clever stage that is the Four Year Old. The things she says are priceless. For example, last week, my wife was reading The Little Mermaid book to her. Caroline interrupted her at one point and started comparing and contrasting Ariel to herself and my wife. Their conversation went something like this:
Caroline: Ariel has long hair like me!
Wife: Yes, she does.
Caroline: But Ariel’s hair is red, and I’m a blondie.
Wife: That’s right!
Caroline: And her lips are red! But not like yours, yours are bland.
Wife: (trying not to laugh) You’re right, her lips are very red.
Bland lips. Point taken from a four year old. Interactions like that make this age my favorite too.
Then, there’s the One-and-a-Half year old. This age sometimes really is my favorite age, even with all of her destruction. Nothing is safe with Emily around right now. Nothing. She rips up books and colors over her sister’s schoolwork and dumps out whole bags of potato chips.
A few weeks ago, she stepped on a mini cupcake with blue frosting and then managed to walk all over the living room, smearing that frosting in large quantities all over our (already tremendously stained) carpet. Blue food coloring does not scrub out. My wife has sworn to never buy mini cupcakes from Walmart again.
I'm not sure why she did it in the first place. (I guess my 9-year old convinced her.)
But then, she’s so cute when she’s copying her older sister’s dance moves or making them up all her own. Or when she’s trying to help wash the dishes, or when she lectures the cat. It’s such a fleeting time. Maybe that’s what makes it my favorite age.
Sometimes when kids are having a hard time with life, it’s easy to get bogged down with the negative attributes with which they are currently struggling. It’s encouraging to realize that the stages they go through aren’t permanent. That’s why you can just hang on and wait some of it out. On the other hand, it's sad that they move on. Growing older and the passage of time strikes me as really sad. These moments are brief. We should hold on to them as long as we can. If not, they'll probably be broken by the 1-year old. Oh well, move everything to the top of a closet until they are about four... unless it's the carpet.
You'll just have to eventually change it.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.