Well, we’ve just returned from our family summer holiday with the boys, my parents, husband & step daughter and its been a lovely week in the Isle of Wight. The experience of being away all together has got me thinking about all the phases of parenthood and children’s ages. EJ is one, JJ is on the cusp of four and their elder sister is nine. Whilst we were away there were two occasions when we were able to leave EJ with my mum and dad and go out with the other two for fun days out. It was a bit of a revelation because, of course, as soon as EJ was born JJ’s destiny was altered just as he was starting to get to an age where we would have been able to begin enjoying him and taking him to do more interesting things (for all of us!).
It reminded me of the early days with JJ when he was colicky and I was depressed and I desperately wanted someone to tell me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that things would get easier. Some people did say that but I was never sure quite how that would work or how I would ever be able to enjoy my life again or find peace and normality and routine that I would feel in control of. At the same time other people with older children were very quick to play the whole “it never gets easier, it just changes” card which just seems like such a miserable thing to tell someone in that situation. Because the truth is it does get easier, and I can see that now, firstly because I remember thinking I was so much happier when JJ was about two – despite the tantrums and all the little fussiness of a child that age, it was just tribulations – I was back in control. Secondly because this week we were able to enjoy JJ at aged four and take him on steam trains, fairground rides, beaches and theme parks without everything being dragged backwards by the presence of a frustrated one year old, restrained all day in a buggy and unable to express his wishes and needs clearly.
With a baby at age one you are still very much in a phase of life which involves thorough planning of every day – meals, when the cooking and cleaning can be fitted in (if at all!), what you will do to entertain them, when they will take their nap, etc, etc. As time goes by I think that obsessive planning is a bit less important as your child develops and needs less constant input from you.
Obviously I have yet to experience the teenage years and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would jump to tell me that everything will go to hell in a handcart at that point but I’m of the opinion that, by that stage, other than the obvious similarities (they will all have the pressures of schoolwork and finding their place in the world) things are going to vary from one family to another depending on circumstances: perhaps your child is bullied, or perhaps your child is a bully?; perhaps you have a very sociable child or a child on the autistic spectrum?; perhaps your child has been affected by the breakup of their parents?; perhaps you have a particularly intelligent child or a child who struggles with dyslexia? Any number of external pressures or influences could affect your lives together during those years. But to say that things haven’t got easier to the parent of a baby or toddler is unfair. So many possiblities open up with older children and I can only be optimistic about the future when I have a glimpse of the good times and at the same time a very real reminder of the realities of all the restrictions you must face with a baby over the course of at least the first 18 months.
Do you agree or have you had a different experience and think I’m over-simplifying?