No two stages of childhood are the same. When you have your first baby, you think you’re ‘done’ when you get them to sleep through the night. Then they become a toddler and say, ‘No!’ to everything and you realise the battle has just begun. The preschool years reinforce this with a 4 year old who knows everything. So who really wins in the battle of Newborn vs. Toddler vs. Preschooler? Which stage is actually the hardest?
There are 8 weeks to go. Until we will be living this scenario. Newborn vs. Toddler vs. Preschooler. Alien vs. Predator. With slightly less horror (I hope).
It got me thinking about which stage of childhood I like the best. Which stage is the easiest to survive. Which is actually the lesser of three evils… and now I want to cry.
They cry. A lot. But they don’t answer back. Or move.
Newborns are highly dependent creatures.
They want feeding every three hours. They keep you up at night. They wail with an intensity that makes scratching your fingernails down a blackboard seem less offensive. The only thing that calms them is holding them. ALL. THE. TIME. So the first time you have one, you treat them like a hand grenade because if you dare to put them down they will detonate everything in their path. Starting with you.
When you have your first child, this level of dependency can feel overwhelming. Suffocating. Because they literally cannot do a thing for themselves. By the time you have your third, you realise that this is a blessing. A blessing that enables you to go to the shops with ease. Without having to negotiate your left arm for a pack of Jelly Tots. You can leave them on the floor and they’ll be there when you get back (assuming you haven’t left them alone with a preying toddler and preschooler). You can watch endless episodes of Gilmore Girls and they just let you. Amen.
But the best thing of all about having a newborn? They don’t answer back. Not a single word. Instead, they hang on everything you say. You. That wonderful lady with the milk, who makes everything instantly better.
They tantrum and meddle. They learn the word,’No!’
Toddlers think they are highly independent creatures.
They want to do everything for themselves, without always having the skills to make this possible. You try to dress them. They scream, ‘No!’ You try to help them with a puzzle. They scream, ‘No!’ Every other sentence is, ‘I do it.’ So you wait. And you watch. As they put their leggings on their heads and force puzzle pieces together against their will. All the while losing precious minutes of your life that you will never get back. Without ever reaching the end goal.
You never really learn how to handle a toddler. Because their very nature defies all logic. All you can do is clap and wave them on like a deranged cheerleader. And accept that there is no right way to wear leggings. Because if you repress them now, you’re just dragging out the pain. You do, however, learn what to do with a toddler. Or what not to do. You’ll shop online for starters. And you won’t turn your back for a second, unless you want to enjoy ‘toilet roll soup’ in the sink for lunch. These toddlers know how to party.
The good news? They haven’t yet learned sarcasm. They do however master manipulation pretty early on. Yup. There’s nothing quite like the bear hug and snog of a toddler to make up for all the toilet roll soup you’ve consumed that day.
They know everything. The end.
Preschoolers know they are independent creatures.
By the time they reach four or five, they’ve tested you to the hilt. They know what they can get away with, which buttons to press and once they start school, it’s Game Over. Preschooler 1 – You 0. Because suddenly they get brave. Suddenly, they know everything. More than you could ever possibly hope to have learned in your limited 25 years on the planet. And my, are they not afraid to tell you. Welcome to ‘Back-chat and Sarcasm for Beginners.’
Sometimes, you can reason with a preschooler. Something that’s initially refreshing after the toddler years. Until you realise that the time you spent watching them put leggings on their head is now going to be spent negotiating ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Because a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ apparently doesn’t cut it. These preschoolers want explanations. They want justifications. They want your soul. Meanwhile, you just want to lie down in a dark, quiet room with a cold flannel on your head and wine on an intravenous drip.
But it isn’t all bad. You don’t have to watch CBeebies anymore. And preschoolers make you laugh. A LOT. Plus, if nothing else, the two stages before this one have now taught you that there are always more challenges to overcome. That this is better than what awaits.
So whatever hell you think you’re in now, the worst is probably still to come… hello Teenager…
Now, where’s that dark room?
So. Which IS the lesser of the three evils? Perhaps you prefer the newborn years? Or can’t wait to get to the preschool years? Maybe you have a tween or teen and can tell us how this ends… happy endings only please! Leave a comment and visit Surviving Life and Motherhood if you’d like more gems on how NOT to do this life lark…