Recently, videos with audio about “only having little kids for four years” have been making the rounds. As someone who loves the baby/toddler/preschool years, it definitely tugs at my heartstrings.
I realize those years aren’t everyone’s jam. Even if they are- the last two years have definitely been outside anything remotely resembling a typical experience of those years and the last thing anyone needs at this point is more guilt/anxiety piling on. No one should be feeling deficient if they haven’t loved every second of an exceptionally difficult time.
Also- they may only be little for four years, but they’re still ours and there are many years following those four. I wrote the following for submissions late last year, it never went anywhere, but it seems perfect for this moment….
Over a year ago I had a rare day where my eldest had a day off from school, but my youngest still had preschool. We were both excited to have some one on one time and decided coffee and hot cocoa at our favorite coffee place was in order once we dropped off his little sister.
On our way to our table, I saw an acquaintance and stopped to say a quick hello and I introduced my eight year old. This friend had only seen me at the coffee house with my three year old and hadn’t realized I had an older child as well. She was there with her husband enjoying a kid-free breakfast date. It was the third week of December, we chatted for a second about the craziness of the holiday season and the additional challenges posed by the very strange year, then my son and I and I said a quick, “enjoy your breakfast!’ and went to our table.
We got settled, debated the merits of different baked goods, made our decisions, then were quickly absorbed in enjoying our treats. We were also enjoying our conversation. My son was excitedly telling me about a kid’s history book he had finished and we started talking about if we would have liked living in Tudor England. (The lack of coffee in that place and time had me down as a HARD no, in case anyone is wondering…) Inwardly I marveled at how different a coffee outing looks with this child than it did several years ago. My purse only had my wallet, keys, and our masks in it. A variety of little toys to keep him busy, along with a phone with a few favorite episodes in the event of total meltdown, are no longer required. Now I’m with a (not so) small human who is gaining more knowledge by the moment and eager to discuss and share his thoughts.
The baby and toddler years are my time to shine. It has been my favorite phase so far. I would often sideeye parents who talked the golden years of parenting being when you have mid-older elementary children. At the time I could not believe anything could ever replace or compare to having a tiny body snuggled up to you, or a sticky little hand in yours. As time has moved on I’m realizing more and more, it is not a comparison- it is a continuation. We sat there for almost an hour talking about his book, his friends, his plan for the rest of the holiday break. I realized that all of that baby and toddler time had brought us here and rather than feeling wistful like I usually would- it felt like an amazing gift. It was quite the realization over coffee and an amazing scone.
Towards the end of our outing, my friend got up to leave with her husband and stopped by our table. I expected to exchange quick holiday wishes and hopes for a better New Year, but she surprised me. My friend smiled and mentioned she had been feeling a bit wistful with her children all in full time school. In her smile and her eyes I saw a kindred spirit, another mom who had adored the baby and toddler years and was sad they were definitely at an end. I smiled a smile that I’m sure mirrored her own, and was about to say something about how fast it goes or other cliched phrase, feeling that pull towards those days of little ones even as I was truly enjoying and marveling over this outing with my big kid. Before I can say anything else, my friend added,
“I hope you don’t think I was eavesdropping, but I so enjoyed listening to you two talking. It was so much fun to hear your son talk about his book and it makes me realize even though I miss having little ones, there is just so much to look forward to.”
Then we exchanged wishes for a good holiday and Happy New Year, finished our breakfast and headed about our to-do list and errands. I thought about what my friend had said for the rest of the day and about the realizations I had as well. Then things got busy and it drifted to the back of my mind.
This past fall, as my now- four year old started reception; full-time school where we live, I was more and more likely to lament the fact that we are really and truly out of the baby/ tiny kid phase at our house. I think wistfully of chubby arms, gummy smiles, and unsteady steps more than I care to admit. I hadn’t thought about this coffee date and my friend’s comments a half a year ago until the other day and it stopped me in my tracks…
This may be a time of big changes and transitions. It may be the time where I have to say goodbye to the baby and toddler years forever.
There really is just so much to look forward to.
If you also saw a only little for four years video and it made you pause, yes, we only have little ones for four years, but there’s a lot of wonderful to come after that.