I think most people who read my blog will agree that parenting is bloody hard work. And in the early years, it can sometimes feel a little bit exhausting, a little bit boring, and more than a little bit lonely. If you are already disagreeing with me, you’re probably not my ideal reader, but feel free to judge away because this is my truth.
As babies, our kids are cute and cuddly, but they just eat, sleep and poop all day. Spending your days at home with your little poop machine can get pretty boring and lonely, no matter how much you love them or how grateful you are to have them. I now look back fondly on the days of binge-watching Netflix with a baby constantly attached to my boob, but I have no desire to return to them.
Then they become toddlers and they have minds of their own, but those minds aren’t terribly logical. You’re constantly chasing after them to keep them out of trouble. Often their only thank you for your efforts is a tantrum because you wouldn’t let them jump into that pond and drown.
Toddlers are more interactive, and some parents love playing age-appropriate games with them and letting them get messy with crafts or rolling around in the mud. For me, though, however much I value spending time with my toddler, I’m not super into toddler games. I can only build the train track once or twice before I’m feeling pretty bored. I can’t stand messy play. My toddler won’t let me help with his colouring. Seriously, he steals the pen out of my hand and puts the cap back on. And he still isn’t much of a conversationalist.
Baby and toddler parenting is physically and mentally exhausting. You need to have oceans of patience and be able to to function on very little sleep. But for anyone still in these years and feeling a bit worn out, I have good news:
It gets easier.
My eldest is now 5, and in the last couple of months I have seen such a change in him. He’s suddenly fun! Okay, he has been fun since day one, in the sense that he’s my lovely little boy/bundle of joy/etc. But he’s suddenly started enjoying and being able to do things that I also genuinely enjoy.
With him, I’m no longer needing to remind myself not to look at my phone after he’s “cooked” me a plastic piece of chicken in his toy kitchen for the 10th time in a row. I don’t have to hover over him at the playground to stop him falling on his head. I almost never have to help him wipe his bottom. The less pleasant or boring parts of parenting him are melting away and being replaced by all the reasons I wanted kids in the first place.
1. We have fantastically interesting conversations. My boy asks me questions about life, death and the universe that really challenge me and make me think. I love trying to explain things to him in a way he’ll understand. It’s teaching me a lot, realising how hard things can be to explain. Even simple things like explaining what a play is – as in a theatrical production – can be an interesting challenge if you don’t just resort to Google.
2. He can draw and write all by himself. My 2yo loves drawing but I have to watch him like a hawk so he doesn’t draw on the walls or start eating the pens. But my 5yo can entertain himself long enough for me to have a hot cup of tea, and he draws better than I do now. And the drawings are so sweet. Here is one of my favourites:
3. He can do cultural stuff. During the Easter holidays I took my 5yo to the British Museum. Now, I might take my toddler to a place like that, but only if I could keep him securely strapped into his buggy the whole time. Otherwise, he’d be chewing on some priceless ancient sculpture before I could say “Mesopotamia”.
But the big boy looked at giant Buddha statues and said “wow”. He listened when I tried to explain the history to him. We happened across a brilliant display where a museum attendant was allowing people to hold ancient coins. My son was fascinated by the coins, carefully examined them with a magnifying glass, and held them so gently. I was in ecstasy that suddenly I could share a museum visit with my son in a way we both enjoyed.
I also took him to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country home, and was amazed that he was quite happy to walk through the house with me and let me explain what a typewriter is and other anachronisms.
4. He can play video games with me. When I realised I was going to have 2 boys and never a little girl, I did have to take a minute to mourn that there were loads of girly mother–daughter moments I was never going to experience. But I’ve never been all that girly anyway, and I knew that little boys were more likely to share my interest in video games. This promise is now coming to fruition in my 5yo. We’ve started playing Lego Star Wars together on the Wii U and it’s really fun for both of us. We make a great team and neither of us has gone over to the Dark Side just yet.
5. He eats normal food and behaves on picnics. The featured photo is him eating a Subway sandwich at Chartwell. Finally, I can take him out and buy some random food instead of packing like we’re camping for a week every time we leave the house. It’s lovely to be able to have fast food treats from time to time. And even better that we can have a picnic without him wandering off a million times or trying to feed his sandwich to an angry swan (I’m looking at you, 2yo).
6. He’s becoming considerate. As sweet and cuddly as my 2yo is, it is all on his own terms. He suits himself, and that’s fine. But it’s a beautiful thing to see my 5yo beginning to notice how other people feel. He can tell if I’m a bit down and he comforts me. If someone is unwell, he makes them a card. He even willingly shares his food with me sometimes.
It sounds like I’m a bit down on toddlers in this post, but that’s not the intention. I’ll maybe write something soon about the upsides of the toddler years – because there definitely are some. But I had to share my delight at being able to share things I love with my older son and have him begin to understand. He’s changed from baby to child, and he’s going to keep growing up from here. I hope that sharing interests in this way and having some good times will help form a basis of trust that will serve us well when we hit tougher times, because goodness knows growing up is hard work.