My husband and I have a long-standing disagreement: I’m madly in love with babies. He wishes our kids could be born at 2-years-old.
Maybe it’s a woman thing, but how can anyone not be obsessed with babies? Sniffing their fuzzy duckling heads while they snuggle in for a nap on my chest gets me higher than any drug. Watching them breathe, staring into their wide, alien eyes, and feeling the clutch of tiny fingers around mine is the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience.
But to my husband, babies, while cute, are fairly useless.They can’t tell jokes.They can’t ride a bike or go bowling. All they know how to do is poop and keep you up all night. So when our kids were little babies, he literally counted down the days until they were toddlers. “Stop wishing it away!” I would yell at him, as if his complaints had the power to speed up their fleeting infancy. We have never seen eye to eye on this.
When our first kid got old enough to skip down the street singing made-up songs, my husband started truly loving fatherhood. He embraced all the daddy stuff you can’t do with a baby, like hoisting our daughter on his shoulders, taking her to the diner for hot cocoa and chocolate chip pancakes, and explaining Star Wars. This was the job he signed up for. I am glad for him. For her. For both of them. And a little bit sad for me. For not only am I obsessed with babies, but I feel much more competent taking care of them. Babies’ problems are easily solved with a boob, a cracker, a snuggle, or a nap. When they get frustrated, distracting them is a simple as, “Look, the garbage truck!” Mothering babies may be tiring, but it’s satisfying in its straightforwardness.
Babies never say “You’re the worst mom in the world,” just because you wouldn’t let them have a popsicle before dinner. Babies don’t kick the back of your seat while you’re driving when they don’t like the song on the radio. Babies don’t ask you all about dead bodies and sexual intercourse and Jesus before you’ve had breakfast. I can change a blowout diaper in an airplane bathroom with no changing table without breaking a sweat, but I still don’t know how to respond when my kindergartener says she hates me.
Kids–oy. Kids are so much more harder and more complicated than babies. Despite nearly six years of experience in parenting a big kid, I still struggle mightily. I’m expected to respond calmly and appropriately to tantrums, phobias, picky eating, nightmares, sibling rivalry, friend drama, and insatiable wants–so many wants! The truth is, I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. I buy a lot of books with titles like No-Drama Discipline. I don’t have time to read them, but buying them makes me feel better.
I know there are lots of things to look forward to with big kids. You can take them to the movies, play catch and Yahtzee, ride rollercoasters, and travel nearly anywhere without packing a diaper bag, schlepping a stroller, or panicking about missed naps. Big kids surprise you, in a good way, with their boundless curiosity, wit, and creativity. And theoretically, they can pour their own bowl of cereal on a Saturday morning, turn on the TV, and give you an extra hour of sleep. That all sounds really good to my husband. But I just can’t quit baby love.
Our second baby is 19-months-old and still thinks I’m perfect. My husband continues to mumble things like, “I can’t wait until she has all her teeth,” and I continue to yell, “Stop wishing it away!” But who am I kidding, when it comes to our baby vs. big kids smackdown, he’s the obvious winner. I’m in love with a phase that lasts barely two years. And he loves the rest of it. So I’m the one who needs to get with the program and learn to find the magic in childhood. Quickly.