Motherhood

A Parenting Question…

Jeremy Goddard

My friend Sharon, a mother-of-three, has a theory: Everyone has an age that they’re especially good at with kids. Maybe it’s wriggly newborn babies. Maybe it’s goofy toddlers. Maybe it’s earnest five-year-olds. Maybe it’s curious ten-year-olds. Maybe it’s having heart-to-hearts and debates over dinner with teenagers.

Newborn Baby Yawn

Over the past few years, I’ve thought about it a lot. (It’s one of those random thoughts that floats through my mind every few weeks, do you have those?) Some of my friends love newborns, but I get such bad anxiety during the newborn baby phase that I don’t think back on that period with any great nostalgia. But I LOVE the chatty kid stage that Toby and Anton are in right now. The imagination, the wackiness, the sweet, sweet, sweet sincerity. I love how they still think Alex and I are the coolest people around (at least most of the time), and they say such beautiful childlike things. (The other day, Toby and I were on a walk, and I overheard him whisper, “Hello, evening. I missed you this morning.”)

I am also not a huge play-er. I find trains and Magna-Tiles mind-numbing. But I love love love love talking and reading books forever and taking pajama walks and going out for pizza and telling stories about when they were little and chatting while they’re in the bath and rubbing their backs when putting them to bed and hearing their hopes and dreams. My mom always says, “Take their worries and joys seriously,” and I try my best to do so.

What about you? What age do you think you’re particularly good at? I’m curious to hear!

P.S. Toby and Anton in conversation, and how many children do you hope to have?

(Top photo of my dad and his family growing up; the newborn photo by Jenny J.)

  1. your mom’s advice is exactly it. takes me back to bedtime confessions, where questions and answers were always welcome.

  2. Give me a 1.5 – 3 year old any day! The way they talk is adorable. When they get into something they shouldn’t be in, they can be easily moved. They don’t talk back or argue. Playing is simple and everything is new and wonderful. I have an almost 6 year old – going on 16 – and it is just drama all.the.time.

    • “they can be easily moved” <– yes! Oh man it gets harder when they get heavier and more upset about you trying to physically move them. I've discovered that distracting my kids with stories works wonders. It doesn't work every time, but it's a good solid strategy. I posted about it today:
      http://www.evereadbooks.com/2016/02/how-to-charm-stubborn-toddler.html

      I don't know because I don't have teens yet, but I think I might love having teenagers. So far: the older the better! But I do seek out babies to hold… <3

  3. Hannah says...

    I don’t like being around babies for very long, mine or anybody else’s. I always know they could go off like a bomb, at any time, and then of course, they can’t tell you what’s wrong. I spent so many nights up all night trying to diagnose what was wrong with my son. I was 19 and so afraid and alone, as my husband, a musician, was on the road a lot, and I had no family nearby. I worried that my poor baby wouldn’t survive me! Even nowadays, I get nervous around babies, and will only be around them if their mom or dad is on the scene too.

    I like ’em 4 and any age on up. I went on to foster 4 siblings who came at 7,8,9&14 – they were almost too good, as they’d had it so rough before, that they appreciated anything they got. So now I get 5 phone calls on mother’s day, but I only had to go through one infant; perfect!

  4. Jeanne says...

    I have 2 girls ages 8 and 11 and I have to confess; little babies scare me! I spent the first 6 months of their lives worrying about their floppy necks. Once they started going to kindergarten, everything shifted for me as a parent. It’s still hard, and my oldest is getting hormonal and everything I say is wrong, but I “get” them now. I love that they have their own opinions and are developing their own style. I love that they argue with me and their arguments make sense and are sometime persuasive. And I can see the results of things that I drilled into them at an early age; although at times they are trying overall they are compassionate, empathetic, kind people and I see them acting that way everyday.

  5. Ashley says...

    I love 4-5 year olds. They’re the perfect mix of still needing you but also very independent. They have these wonderful ideas and imaginations. To me they’re at the perfect stage of life, still innocent but the days of endless whining and crying are over. I love that I can say we’re not going to do x because y and they’re like yeah ok yeah that makes sense and they don’t. I love how toddlers are such a whirling mess with such a joy for life but man they are exhausting and the crying and whining really gets to me.

  6. Lynne says...

    Hi Joanna, I read the post on “How do you decide if you want babies” and I would really love to see a future piece where you interview older couples who decided not to have kids during their fertile years (what were their rationales? How did family/friends react?) And how they are now (do they regret their decisions 10, 20 years later? Or was it the best decision they’ve ever made? What are their lives like now? etc.)

    Thanks so much!
    Lynne

    • Samantha says...

      OMG THIS! My bf and I don’t wanna have children, and people just don’t get it. They think we’re insane and that we’ll probably change our minds. I would love to know how older couples who took the decision to not have kids are feeling about it years later. I know you are a mother, and you write a lot about motherhood and kids (to be honest, I love the posts!), but please consider it :)

  7. Sarina says...

    I am really enjoying reading the comments in response to this question!

    I have a 10.5 month old baby boy; he is busy, active, happy and quite independent – I do like this stage but I love the newborn / 0-6 months stage sooo much more. I think it’s because of all the snuggles and cuddles that you can have with a newborn – my little man is not much of a snuggler now, he’s too busy wanting to get on with the next thing haha.

    I love kids and have done loads of babysitting over the years – I reckon the 4-7 age bracket is pretty cool too!

  8. Jodie says...

    It’s always wildly unpopular when I say that I did not like the “infant” stage. I get looks but it is true and I wasn’t great at it. I do however, LOVE the stage we are at now and I have to say I’m killing it (for now). 5 years old is so interesting to me and like you, I do not play but we have talks and I like to take him places and see how he responds to new experiences. Thank you for writing this.

  9. bean613 says...

    Wow, thank you for posting this. I thought I was weird or a bad mom since I’m not a big fan of the newborn/infant stage. With my first, it was okay, because I didn’t know any better. With my second, I was DYING to get through the baby stage (throw in some baby blues for fun). He’s almost 18 months now and I’m enjoying him so much more now. My daughter is 4 and I LOVE IT for all the reasons you wrote about.

  10. Simone says...

    I was an amazing newborn mother…. I have all the patience in the world for them…. Babies in general…once they start toddling though, I’m just not that great…then by the time they become more independent, like 10.. I’m good again 😳

  11. Lisa says...

    I don’t really know what my favourite stage is (especially since I’ve only had limited contact with children since being one). I didn’t like being a child (weirdo) but I do actually like children now. I lodged with a family for a few months, and they had a toddler and I LOVED it. He was so surreal and came out with the weirdest things, whereas the older children (up to age 12) were so lovely, fun to play with, interested in everything.

    I’m coming up to 37 weeks pregnant so soon (woo hoo!) I’ll have my own child to experience. People are being all doom and gloom about the newborn stage, but I can’t wait to finally meet this little person, hold them, kiss their cheeks and squish them.

  12. Thank you for saying this out loud! I keep wondering when I will hit my best stride as a mum. I’m thinking I’ll be in my element from 10+ years when you can have great conversations and they still think you’re awesome. Not sure what teen year will have them running from me!

  13. Sarah V says...

    Whoa, is your dad the kid sitting on the stoop railing? He is Toby’s twin!

  14. Becca says...

    I was just talking to my husband about this. I have a 3 month old and an almost 3 year old. it’s basically all anxiety until they are 6 months. I am loving this toddler stage – so fun to talk with my daughter! I don’t mind playing either I find it relaxing to totally be present in the moment with no worries except what to play next.

  15. Bonnie says...

    Thanks for this post! I’m pregnant with my first, and have been so scared about my approaching due date, because I am not in love with newborns. I feel like the only one who doesn’t gush and ooze love when holding the little tiny ones. But, I love kids.

    (This means I’m gonna be ok. Right? Riiight?)

  16. I needed this post and it’s wonderful comments! Thank you.

    I like how we can feel comfortable enough to say, “Eh, I’m not keen on this age, but I love…”

    I’ve been struggling with the 2 1/2 year old stage. I thought I’d be the mom who loves to play with toys, but I’m having a hard time with it lately and I’ve been feeling bad. I honestly think me and him need to learn how we play best with each other.

    Thankfully we can spend all day cuddling and reading books together: )

  17. I’m out of the baby phase.. my little guy turned two and I am not feeling it.. I prefer my 5 year old… where as you said we can talk, read, play board games rather than the kiddie nonsensical variety..

  18. I definitely like infants, my baby boy Charlie will be one year old on the 28th, and I am excited, but at the same time, I missed my baby when he is tiny.

  19. I adore babies, probably the reason why I have five children! I have no specific age, I love them as babies, I love toddlers, and I love the emerging enquiring mind of a 9 year old. But now having three teenagers along with a 9 year old and 11 year old I find I also love having teenagers in the house, yes you read that right, I love teenagers! They are such fun to sit around the dinner table with, our conversations are enriching, I learn as much from them as they do from me. I think all ages are fabulous, they all have their good points and bad points, but in general I love it all!

  20. katie says...

    LOVE newborns.

    My daughter is 6.5yo now and to me, it is PAINFUL. This has been a really rough year for us, age wise. She’s always been very strong willed, but now she has her own opinions about things and seriously.. it’s just all around not so great for me. I can’t wait until this particular phase ends. Soon, please.

  21. I am a better mom now to my toddler than I was when she was a baby. I was a spaz when she was younger and never felt comfortable/confident being out with her so we stayed home a lot. Now I enjoy taking her out to explore and I love everything about her.

    I realized this theory after watching my sister in law. She is ahhhmazing with babies. She’s like a baby whisperer! As soon as my nephews started getting older (pre-teen & teenager) I noticed she took the backseat a little & handed the reigns to my brother. It doesn’t mean she’s not a good mom. Prior to having Luna I judged her for this. Now that I am a mom, I understand!!

    Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  22. Elsapoe says...

    I’m especially good at the, learning to talk but not quite saying words yet, grips their little hand around your finger, and just figured out they can move around on their own a little bit. I love this age, and babies always like me, I don’t know why.

  23. Rachel S. says...

    My baby is now 14 months, but the second is already on the way! As crazy as it all was, I’m really looking forward to the baby stage again. I just loved it so much. I feel like my husband is really getting to shine now as he loves playing and tackling our son now, where as I don’t feel I’m as good at that. It’ll be interesting to see how it keeps changing as he gets older and begins talking.

  24. Emma says...

    As a very experienced babysitter and au pair: newborns for their total dependence–they are all-absorbing and that intensity is its own reward for me. But also kids ~5-10–for their independence. I used to love getting down on the floor and playing with toddlers, but I find that mind-numbingly boring now.

  25. Courtney says...

    I love the newborn/baby stage where they are so cuddly and love to sleep and eat and not much else. But I am also an 8th grade teacher and though middle school is rough and weird, these kids are awesome. So I think that stage will be cool too. I am NOT a player either, I love that you said that!

  26. Shannon says...

    “Hello evening, I missed you this morning” How sweet is that?!
    I appreciate the advice your mom gave you about taking their joys and worries seriously. I think this is exceptional advice in encouraging self-awareness and individuality and not creating anxiety in a child.
    I loved the newborn stage and I miss it fiercely. Toddlerhood has it’s challenges. Oh, the tantrums and the tantrums and the power struggle to become an independent to name a few. But I do love watching my son grow and explore his world with such wonder and amazement in his eyes. His love of books I am very proud of and my heart swoons when he uses his imagination while we are playing and spending time together. I could do without the occasional biting and hitting but they say that will pass. Right? That will pass.

  27. Amanda says...

    I have a two-year-old daughter right now. It’s my favorite. With every new phase/age, “it’s my favorite.” We are expecting another the firs of June, and my anxiety is kicking in. I remember finally relaxing a bit and enjoying being a parent when my daughter was about 7-8 months old. I’m looking forward to the day they will be 5 and 2!

  28. Ashlyn says...

    That is just the gosh-darned sweetest thing that Toby said. It makes my heart ache, and I want to capture it and remember it forever… so I can only imagine how you feel about that moment!

  29. Linda says...

    I luuuuuurve babies, but I think I’m getting much better at teenagers, now that I have one and will soon have two. I love seeing the humans they are becoming, and they both crack me up daily.

  30. Emily says...

    I love the teenage years (13 and 17), but this time in their lives feels so bittersweet. They have become so interesting, so engaged in the world, but on the verge of flying away. While on a flight earlier this month, my daughter held my hand to comfort me (I’m a fearful flyer when I fly with my kids). I didn’t realize how much I had missed her touch.

    • Carolyn says...

      That is lovely. I have a 12 and a 15 year old and they are such wonderful company. I don’t want them to fly away either but I can’t wait to see the adults they become.

  31. I am melting at the “Hello evening” comment! My daughter is in what they call Emerging Adulthood, but I can recall all her seasons of her life as if they were yesterday. Teens tough – but still gifts along the way because she is a strong, independent young woman in a highly-conformist high school and I’m glad we didn’t have the resources to send her away so we could navigate those seas together as a family.

  32. I mean, all ages come with their pros and cons, but I feel like we’re in a really sweet spot right now with 6 and 9. They are old enough to tie their shoes and dress themselves (sometimes it takes awhile, but…), the six year old is slowly becoming less sociopathic egomaniacal, the nine year old is thoughtful and independent – does his own laundry, takes care of the dog – but he’s still cuddly and likes me. That’s a plus – both of my children still think their parents are THE BEST. I’m trying to savor this.

  33. Allison says...

    I love the teens! By far my favorite.

  34. B says...

    my mother always used to say ‘every parent has their favorite stage’
    and as a parent now two little girls, I totally agree!!

    I LOVE the stage when they sleep through the night, but are still babies and you can take them anywhere and they are happy on your lap playing with a spoon.
    I find sitting on the floor and playing with my kids is a real challenge for me, my husband can do it for hours, but I have zero patience.

  35. Kaela says...

    This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think we are all good at whatever we put our heart into. We learn and grow with our children and if we earnestly try to connect at every age and stage, we will. I am good with my infant, I am good with my two year old, and I am good with my six year old and I look back at all these stages with love. I think we only have to try to connect and they are on the other end, really really wanting that attention. Just a thought.

    • Mary Beth says...

      Agreed :) Enjoy every minute, always be patient (there is really no age where patience is not needed), be grateful for the life you created, cherish the time spent together. There are joys and challenges at every age. It’s how you deal with your own insecurities that makes the difference. Love, love, love and extra kisses when you are angry!

      But what do I know… I only have a 10 month old! Love reading others’ thoughts.

  36. I think I’m good with the 3-5 crowd because I love their silly sense of humor :)

    My nieces are that age and I love how easily I can make them giggle by saying things like “So guys, what are we eating for dinner? Are we eating… socks? No? Are we eating… crayons? No? Hmm, how about worms? No? Oh alright, I guess we can eat pasta.”

  37. Sophie says...

    Thank you for this. I always felt a little guilty because I didn’t love playing with Legos or video games. Luckily their dad is a kid at heart and he was able to fill in the gaps.

    By the way, those quotes from Toby and your mom? Pure gold.

  38. Samantha says...

    Liberating post for sure! I have 11 year old twins and an 8 year old (all girls). Ages 7 & up have become increasingly more enjoyable with all three. My twin daughters are still inseparable in a good way so I often feel like an outsider to their world. I keep telling myself to be available but to give them space. I hope they know they can come to me – for good things and bad. I anticipate enjoying the teenage years (minus hormones) and young adult years. It is thrilling to see who they are becoming. Thanks for a great post!! Great advise from your Mom also!

  39. I loved the newborn stage for about 5 minutes, but am finding I really enjoy the kids now that they’re older. Like you, I don’t always enjoy the somewhat dull toys and now that my kids are talking and observing so much more and love reading I’m having much more fun.

  40. Joanna says...

    Oh Joanna, this has come at a perfect time for me. I have a nearly 3 year old and a 4 month old and I recently had a similar conversation with my Mother, who kindly pointed out that nobody is good at everything, and that is especially true in parenting! I am so bad at playing with my toddler, I find it really dull and struggle to show enthusiasm and it makes me feel so guilty (my husband is amazing at it which makes the guilt worse!) I love the newborn, baby stage when it’s all gentle whisperings and cuddles. I never feel anxious around teeny ones, but toddlers, oof. My friend has a 5 year old who calmly plays alone and has sweet conversations with her and without wishing to rush life, I can’t wait for that stage with my son!

  41. Sara says...

    I adore the baby stage, it’s the only stage (now that my daughter is turning 4 in a few weeks) where I was able to really coddle her, hold and embrace her for longer than 2min at a time, keep her close to my heart for many hours and talk to her softly about life and what she was missing when her eyes were shut during those delicious naps. She is changing weekly so I’ve been able to now enjoy helping her read, do craft projects, playing games with better understanding of rules at this stage in her life, and just really being able to have a conversation with her knowing she understands what I’m saying/expressing more and more. The baby stage happens so quickly, if you blink you miss it and soon they are these little people that are just a tad more headstrong and challenging, but definitely another level of fun. :)

  42. Toddlers!!!! I love the stage that my kiddos are now! The wonder with everything around them. The way that they are still so impressed by the world, and curious. I have two year old boy/girl twins and they thrive of off each other. We were leaving a friends house after watching the a football game, (its dark maybe 8ish) my daughter gets out of the car and says ‘Mommy we broke the moon!!!!!!!!’ (its a waning moon) My son jumps in and say ‘yeah mama, we broke -ed-did it.’ My poor children are broken hearted about the moon. And my husband and I are trying not to die of their cuteness.

    • Jay says...

      That is so sweet :)

  43. Julia says...

    My sons just turned 7 and 4. I adore it when they ask me about the world, life and death, how things work. And I find it a real privilege (and a challenge!) to be the one to figure out short and sensible answers. In a few years I will certainly miss this stage of childhood!

  44. Aileen says...

    I am not a player mum either, mostly because she doesnt “play” in the way my adult brain wants her too! I am not particularly arty crafty either but I do like sitting down with paints and play dough. My favourite age has to be from about 2-4. I wasnt good with newborns, whilst I loved my baby, I didn’t like the not knowing, the lack of sleep, the not being able to communicate etc. I am definitely a mum that likes to get out for walks, playing in the park, running along the beach, reading books and talking. I love this stage :)

  45. Irene Marx says...

    Dear, Joanna,

    I love reading your posts! They are always intelligent and mindful. Alway doing something with me.
    The thoughts you write about, I have them so often! Having three children it was hard work going threw the toddler time. Really not my cup of tea!
    Now, as they grow older (my youngest just became 6), they have those themes which I can remember where overwhelming in my childhood. Yesterday my son asked about the sin of life. He is 10 and I remembered those burning questions coming up sometimes.

    The little one said, that she does not want to marry. She wants a dog and a smart (car), but unfortunately it has so little space in it, so she can’t have any children… But when I get old, she would pick me up at “my old-people-place” and go for a coffee with me. But I also could have a whine, if I would prefer that….
    Cute and overwhelmingly sad, having children…

    Please write more! It is so enriching!

    Irene

  46. Natasha says...

    Hi Joanna! Thank you so so much for this post. It’s so liberating to think you don’t have to be amazing at all stages of your child’s life. I also struggle to play, but like you, adore the outings we take with our son, the mealtimes, the stories, the bedtime routines. Once again, your blog has lifted me up! xo

  47. Abigail says...

    That’s a great question. My mom admitted to me in my adult years that she resented having children but has loved having adult children. It was difficult to conceive at first since my memories of my mother were never dark, but it made me question my relationship with her through those memories. She resented me, but I never knew, and I loved her intensely. I still love her. She is a tough woman who has become my best friend. Now I have two daughters and I don’t want to resent any age. I want to celebrate them wholly where they are. But I agree about newborns, and I had easy newborns. They just make me feel uneasy. Anything from 6 months on is my favorite. I also teach middle school, and I look forward to that age even though most find that age to be cringe-worthy for understandable reasons. But they are also some of the best humans I know because of their brutal honesty and tender souls. I can’t wait to love my girls when they are at that age. Really I love every age.

  48. Titi says...

    I dont have kids of my own yet but my baby sister is 18 years younger than me, I remember loving her “sincerity” throughout the age of 3 – 6 where to me she felt like a mini adult, super adorable. I love this post, such a heart warming topic!

  49. This is also a recurring thought for me! (Especially during rough phases!) My child is 3 but so far the 3months-18months age was a sweet spot for us.

  50. I love the 3-5. They say the sweetest/funniest things, are pretty independent (dress themselves, clean up,) but the world is a pretty magical place. My 6-year-old is the sweetest, but the magic phase is almost over for her. But I do get to have really wonderful conversations with her. I just love those post 2 year-old/years, tantrum years, when you have a little buddy to explore with! I do like the newborn cuddly stage, but it’s so exhausting. And 6-9 months is really fun too!

  51. K says...

    On the flip side, my mother has always said that each child has an age that they are especially tricky at (she means, there is an age when your child will be THE WORST). Thinking back, I can identify mine immediately (12) and I can also identify my brothers’ (4-6, and 22). So, maybe this makes it look like my mom was really good at the other ages…or maybe it was just us all along. As for me, I love parenting 4-8 year olds — crafts, conversations, and enjoying the things that don’t really exist unless you are that age (zoos, PG movies, Dahl, rainbow loom), but these do not seem to be my daughters “tricky” ages, so maybe there’s something to that…

  52. Debbie says...

    I am not a fan of infants and I can handle only small bursts of toddles. I love teens. This is by far my most favorite stage. As a therapist I see a lot of teens and I always feel productive when working with them. Whether they are angry or agreeable.