You know the saying: when you’re a parent, the days go by slowly but the years go by fast. This was never more true for me than the girls were really little – say, under five years old. I would look back on each passing year absolutely astonished that so much time had passed and they were so much older… but in the thick of things, some of those days really did drag on agonizingly slowly.
I fully understood why some animals eat their young.
It was just… hard. Everything had the potential for turning into a disaster. Meltdowns could occur at any moment. It took thirteen hours to get out of the house to run to the grocery store and an additional forty-three minutes to buckle them into their carseats. I know there are lots of parents who looooved those early years, but for me? They were awesome. They were hilarious. But they were really effing hard.
Mercifully, as the years changed and the girls got older, a lot of things became easier. When kids are young, you never, ever have a moment to yourself, not even – nay, especially even – if you’re in the bathroom.What is this ‘privacy’ thing you speak of?
Admittedly, I still receive very little privacy and I am a ninja when it comes to multitasking while on the toilet, but it’s gotten better. Annie and Ella can entertain themselves. They are capable of reaching higher and making their own sandwiches and changing the channel on the remote, so I actually can have a few minutes of peace. Granted, it’s not like I’m using that time to read or practice yoga, but having a little breathing room is a godsend.
When your kids are young, there are moments – lots and lots and lots of them – when you need to be right there beside them. They are simply incapable of managing on their own, whether it’s in a swing (that day when they learn how to pump is the day you win the lottery, my friend) or at the sink.
I’m pretty sure there was a rule that all children under a certain age had to be accompanied on the carousel, but even if there hadn’t been, you don’t want your kid to be the one who falls off and makes the ride come to a screeching halt, so there you are. Beside them. Spinning. Around… and around… and around…
You look longingly at the parents who can send their children to the playground by themselves and you practically break down and cry at the thought of not having to join them in the bouncy house.
Ahhhh, wading pools… Adorable inflatable death traps.
But then, little by little, they become more capable. You can step back as they navigate the dress-up exhibit at the museum. Birthday parties become drop-off parties (thank you, sweet baby Jesus). You gingerly test their ability to use the restrooms by themselves in public places. And then finally, you can send them into the pool – the real one, not the inflatable pool of death – without even putting on your own bathing suit (oh happy day!). Do you believe in miracles? YES.
When your kiddos are young, they’re messy, so their clothes need changing constantly. Even as they become slightly less messy, they still want to change their clothes all the time – well, mine did, anyway. Three outfits a day, minimum, and that doesn’t include dress-up. It is maddening and creates laundry piles the size of small countries, so it is truly wondrous that day when they…
… no, scratch that. My girls are still changing their clothes all the freaking time. If yours eventually stopped, please tell me when so I can mark it on the calendar and pre-order a celebratory bottle of champagne.
Juuuust your typical daywear…
And the food – oh, the food! This may come as a shock, after watching Animal Planet and all that and seeing how many wild creatures come out of the womb (or egg or whatever) with fully functioning mouths and stuff, but human children are not capable of feeding themselves. They can drink just fine (most of the time), but alas, milk does not just fall from the sky into their waiting mouths, so you need to nurse or formula-feed them. Which comes with the bottle washing! The sore nipples! The holding of the bottle at exactly the right angle so your little cherub doesn’t choke or swallow air… until that glorious moment when she is able to grasp that bottle herself. Independence!!
Then, you eagerly set out to start them on solids – how exciting! – which is fabulous and new and such a treat… for the first six months. Eventually, doing The Airplane with the spoon becomes just a wee bit tiresome, and cutting food into itty bitty morsels becomes grounds for insanity. But I can tell you with certainty that it does not last forever. One day, your darlings will be able to eat like grown-up people – they’ll even cut their own meat! – and you can say goodbye to sippy cups and skinned grapes forever.
Annie held her sippy cup sideways until she stopped using it. I didn’t like the cups, but her akimbo hold was pretty damn cute.
Shall we discuss getting small children dressed? Let’s just say it would probably be easier to squeeze a goat into a wetsuit than it is to get a wriggling child into his onesie. Babies, of course, cannot help at all (have you ever gone back and dressed an infant once your own children have grown beyond infant-hood and you just sit there waiting for the wee one to slip his arm through the sleeve the way your 13-month old does but all he does is lie there, thrashing about, and it finally dawns on you that he is actually incapable of putting his own arm through the sleeve? Is that just me?), but it is not necessarily better when your toddler learns to dress himself because it takes FOR.EVER. and he will need to do it HIS. WAY. which often does not resemble your way even in the slightest.
Ella (3) is “helping” me dress Annie (1) before going into the snow. The amount of time spent getting ready definitely exceeded the amount of time we spent outside.
As your toddlers become pre-schoolers and, eventually, grade-schoolers, the dressing thing becomes way less physically demanding. (Note that it does not necessarily become easier.) They can put on their own clothes! They can zip their own coats! They can tie their own shoes! There will still be clothing battles and tears and meltdowns, and it might still take you thirteen hours to get out the door, but at least you can be sitting in the car waiting instead of trying to thread a belt through toddler-sized belt loops.
And then, perhaps more than all of the other things that can make those early days creep by so slowly, there is the sleeping. SLEEPING WAS MY BIGGEST ENEMY. If they woke up too soon, it could spell disaster. If they fell asleep too soon – say, in the car on the way home – it could spell disaster. If we slept anywhere other than home, it could spell disaster.
(I noted in my previous post that Nick and I were militant about sleeping, especially with Ella. That was partly because we were first-time parents and didn’t know any better, but it was also because Ella was a notoriously specific sleeper. If we put her to bed between 7:00 and 7:15, she would sleep through the night until 7 a.m. the following morning. If we put her to bed at 7:30 (or later) – just fifteen minutes more! – she would awaken at FIVE A.M. every single time. So, we had a curfew – because of our fifteen month old. It was super fun. Have I mentioned that sleeping was my biggest enemy?)
Our biggest nightmare was when the clocks turned forward or back because, as parents of young ones know, children do not use the clock to determine when to get out of bed. No, they just wake up when their bodies tell them to, regardless of whether it is an hour earlier or later or even three o’clock in the morning, and then they get you up. When those clocks fall back in November and people talk about an “extra hour” of sleep, you want to punch them square in the nose because you know that it will mean an extra hour of being awake… and then an extra torturous hour at bedtime when your children are exhausted (because their bodies tell them it’s an hour later than it is) but you don’t want to put them to bed quite yet because you know that if you do, they’ll continue to awaken at an ungodly hour the following morning.
Basically, “falling back” can suck it.
Well, y’all, I was afraid to mention it earlier because I thought I would jinx it, but it’s been five days in a row and I’m confident enough to say: THE END OF DAYLIGHT SAVINGS WAS JUST FINE THIS YEAR!! I have no idea what time Ella and Annie awakened on Sunday morning because we told them that when they got up, they needed to play quietly and not bother us… and they did. I actually awoke before my alarm to find the girls chilling out in their rooms. HALLE-FREAKIN’-LUJAH.
And then – and then! They became tired that night earlier than normal, so they went to bed earlier than normal (which meant Nick and I had more time to ourselves that night)… but they did not awaken super-early on Monday morning. No! They awoke only slightly early, which meant they had extra time to get ready for school (amen), and then they went to bed a wee bit early that night, too. By Tuesday? Fully adjusted.
AND SO, my friends with young children. Don’t lose hope. Eventually, your littles will dress themselves. They’ll brush their own teeth (but don’t count on nicely brushed hair). They’ll make their own beds (when you nag them). And, one very, very fine day, they will even take “falling back” in stride and that mythical “extra hour” you cherished in college will become part of your life once more. Keep the faith!!
As for your children still being cute when they’re older and maybe still being one another’s best friends? Yep. That happens, too.