Tuesday, August 22, 2006

These are the days

"Oh, isn't she sweet," said the kindly, gray-haired woman behind the counter of the small health food store, "How old is she?"

"She's 16 months," I replied, setting Chicky down on the floor to dig a twenty out of my wallet. Capitalizing on this golden opportunity Chicky decided to pull organic chocolate bars off the low shelves and began handing them to me. Thanks, kid. I get the hint. Mommy needs to have some chocolate and save the rainforest. Mommy's all about good deeds while she's hopped up on sugar.

"Look at how she's walking!" said the grandmotherly-type, clearly forgetting about the teething tablets and bottled water I was purchasing. "Is she talking yet?"

"Just a few words. She gets her point across in other ways." Is my answer as my daughter starts flinging stacks of literature on the local yoga center around the store.

"This is the best age. Enjoy it while it lasts."

As we left with our purchases (finally hurried out because a man with dreads and Birks needed to buy his patchouli) I was struck by her last statement. This is the best age. This is the best age? Sure it's fun to watch my daughter learn and grow everyday, building upon her skills and knowledge of life. Especially the times when she learns that a peak-a-block makes a satisfying crash against my laptop when used as a hammer. Or when eating dinner it's fun to throw the green vegetables to waiting dogs lying below the highchair. I do enjoy watching her run through the house as fast as her little legs will carry her. She runs a few steps and then falls down for no reason, like Agador in "The Birdcage" in the scenes when he's forced to wear shoes, and then gets right back up and continues running only to fall down again. She's tough, my little girl. A few bruises aren't going to stop her from chasing the cat. Yes, this age is fun.

My girlfriend, K., the mother of a precocious two year old, and her sister, mother of two teens and a pre-teen, repeatedly told me in my first few months as a mother that their favorite child age was from three to 9 months. After that, everything goes to shit.

To which I felt like replying "Do you not remember that age? It's all about shit."

But they loved that time in their children's lives. Thoughts of it left them in a rosy haze of soft, sleeping babies, the smell of Dreft and Ivory Snow and sweet infants that they could dress up in any way they chose. I loved that time, too, but I also remember the constant feedings and 3am wake-ups as well as the feel of a downy head against my cheek. Maybe I'm still too close to it to get wrapped up in the romantic memories of infancy. I can remember back to that age and remember a few things fondly. Okay, quite a few things. Was that the best age and I missed something?

The woman in the health food store seemed to remember the age that Chicky is right now as the best. The days when a toddler can walk but language has not yet become a tiresome, insistent, soundtrack played over and over. Chicky still allows me to dress her - okay, some days she refuses to wear shoes but I can feel her on that - and most days has no problem staying in a stroller while I scan the aisles of new books at Barnes and Noble. This is a good age, indeed. But is really the best?

I have yet another friend who was thrilled when her daughter was finally potty trained and somewhat self-sufficient. No more diapers and soon after she could have conversations with her kid. Child-like banter about cows, McDonald's french fries and her friends at preschool, but still it was an exchange of words instead of a one-sided conversation. Any mother of an infant or young toddler knows what I mean when I say one-sided. I have deep, meaningful talks with my kid about politics and Project Runway (or usually just the politics of Project Runway) while she gums the dog's toys. I am looking forward to the day when we can sit down and discuss her hatred for swings together as mother and daughter over a glass of milk and graham crackers.

When Mr. C and I took our first trip to Italy we met a couple in their 50's who were staying at the same inn we were. Over dinner one night shared with three other couples at the inn the husband and wife in their 50's shared stories of their sons moving out of the house. The youngest had just moved out recently and they were toasting to their new freedom. Hurrah! The kids are out of the house! To them, this was the best age. The age when their children were completely self-sufficient, emotionally, physically and monetarily. It's not that they didn't love and enjoy their children but they were done parenting full-time. I'm sure I will enjoy having my life back when my kid is grown, but who's to say it's the best or not?

So, what is the best age? I have to admit that I was a bit disheartened by what the woman at the health store had to say, but after thinking about it I decided to take it with a grain of salt. At sixteen months, Chicky is at a great age. Maybe the best age. But when she's 3 years old and going to preschool and telling me about her day when I pick her up, that will be the best age. And when she's 6 or 7 and she's playing t-ball and she learns to run the bases the correct way or she's picking clover in the outfield, that will be the best age. When she's 15 and hormonal and crying over a boy who doesn't like her, when she finally breaks down and begrudgingly asks for advice then that will be the best age.

And when she's walking down an aisle to receive her diploma or, maybe, to marry the man she loves, that will be the best age.

But for now, I'll enjoy her walking, then falling, then picking herself back up and walking again and consider this the best.

45 comments:

Pendullum said...

I can not remember the 'best' age... I seemto like all so far... EXCEPT!!!

3 years of age...
Hell as I knew it...

2 was a walk in the park...
She is now 8. We all live to tell the tale...
But ouchiemama! 3! It lasted for about a month... but Whoa!!! Clear the battlestations!
I wondered where my sweet kid went....

metro mama said...

It's all good, isn't it. Well, I wouldn't want to do the first three months over, but the rest has been good!

Mamacita Tina said...

A good friend told me you think your child is at that best age stage, but then she learns something else and it starts all over again. I think the best stage is just the entire life span, watching someone develop her character and interact with the world around her. Just completely AMAZING!

something blue said...

My best friend advised me that she thought the best age of her son was as a baby; as toddler; as a five year old. Yes it just gets better and better! I like to rejoice in every moment.

ECR said...

All I know is that months 1-3 were most certainly NOT the best age. She should've just stayed inside me for another trimester. Seriously, it would've been preferable.

Velma said...

I think you have it right. It's not that any age is necessarily the best, but just that each stage of development brings new and special joys. If a parent has a stage that they remember as enjoying the most, it is probably because it was a period of time where they were particularly in sync with their child.

Christina said...

I can say for certain that Cordy's first year was NOT the best age in my opinion. Now that she can walk and is starting to talk, we're having a much better time together.

But I can't say that the best age will always be whatever age she's at. Because I'm fairly certain the teen years will not be the best age.

radioactive girl said...

So far, I have thought every age my kids have been has been the "best age". Sure, every age has some problems, but for the most part I have loved every age and am constantly wishing I could freeze them at each age. Then they grow a little and I think, no I was wrong, THIS is the best age, repeat over and over until I now have no idea which age is best, except that I think all of them are!

mrsmogul said...

I'm thinking the best age is around 4 months where they just lie there like a sack of potatoes. the Little one is learning to roll so its making me tired! But I think also walking for the first time is cute too!

Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said...

When I was pregnant, a co-worker told me that everyone would tell me "to enjoy the baby when she's this age" and he told me people were wrong, enjoy them at every age.
He was struggling with doping drop-out teens at the time and then added this:
"Well, at least until they turn 16, then you just kind of enjoy them not being brought home by the cops."

mo-wo said...

1. You are on a roll, honey
2. I know what you mean

Blog Antagonist said...

At literally every age, I have said to my husband "Wow, this is the best age. I wish he could just stay this age forever." and about five minutes later, I was cursing that "age" for one reason or another.

Each age has its ups, its downs, its pros and cons. Increasing independence is bittersweet. And I think the reason we all look back on infancy with such longing and fondness is that things were easy then. Straightforward. If the baby cried, he was hungry, wet, bored or sick. I could fix that. And they needed me to fix that.

These days, my kids are older, and the issues are not so straightforward. And they don't come to me with everything anymore. They don't have that all consuming need for me. It's friggen AWESOME. And...it SUCKS.

What can I tell ya?? Enjoy every age. But don't beat yourself up when you find yourself longing for the days you're an empty nester. It happens.

Mama of 2 said...

I agree that each stage of our child's lives holds something that I consider makes it the best.

Girlie Girlie is 15 months and right now I am loving this age and hating it as well. But I can tell you this much I am savoring it all since I know that she's my last child and I am doing my best to count my blessings and ignore the short comings of it all.

Great post Mrs. Chicky.

Waya said...

I have 3 kids, so I see all of the "best ages" right now.

Sensitive 5 y/o
Cranky/tandrum 3 y/o
Feisty/happy 18 months old.

Ashley said...

and when she's your best friend as an adult--that will be the best age.

Heather said...

Loved it. Looking forward to finding out about all the best ages when we have kids.

mothergoosemouse said...

BA said it better than I could. There's so much to be said for every age.

Mama G said...

My first visit to your blog - and what a great post! I don't have any wisdom to impart. All I know is that every age so far just keeps getting better and better. Of course, I'm not quite yet to year three, so I'm still new at this.

Mrs. T said...

My aunt once said that whatever age her kids were at the time, THAT was her favorite age. That being said, I think instead of one really great age and the rest is shit, I think each kid has their own shitty phase, and the rest is amazing. Enjoy your Chicky. Every passing phase is wonderful. If it weren't, it would be too heartbreaking to watch them grow up.

carrie said...

There are times when I wish all 3 of my kiddos were infants again, and then times where I am elated with their independence. Parenting is such a give and take, an ever-fluctuating dance of the ups and the downs, and the only thing that you can say for sure is that you will always love your child, no matter what their age. It's all good.

Carrie

Jess said...

Honestly? Every age has it's good, bad, and ugly.
Right now we're at 9 and 5. And it's cool. They're little people...it's crazy.
But, they're little people with their own ideas about things and my 9 year old it all pre-tweeny.
My only advice it to enjoy every age, because you'll never be there with Chicky again. :)

liberalbanana said...

As you may know about me, I don't want kids of my own. But I think I like kids the best when they're old enough to talk to you and make sense - probably any age from 5 onwards. When you can understand each other, that seems the best to me.

Pattie said...

I have to say that I have enjoyed each age that my kids have been for their own reasons. Two is great because they can tell you what they want....although more loudly and with temper than I care for. Then there is four...they can dress themselves, use the potty, go to preschool and tell you about their day. Then there is six...they can read, ride a bike, play board games....I think each age is special. I am willing to bet you'll think so, too.

bubandpie said...

Right now the Pie is just starting to walk, and I absolutely love that funny little half-stagger; it's the cutest thing in the whole world. I was thinking the other day that this is a great age - 12-18 months, before the tantrums start. But I don't think it's the best age. I think the older my children get, the more there is of them - more personality, more will, more talk, more fun, more struggle. There are things I will miss about baby- and toddler-hood, but I would never want my children to be less than they are.

Robin said...

I just want to thank you for writing the way you do, the things you do. I don't know you obviously. But I am a mother, so I do. The way you write things just tickles me, touches me. I actually got goosebumps. My children are 3 and 8 months. They are the best ages. They are the worst ages. 3 is the why age. 8 months and still up 2 or 3 times a night. But would I skip them on to another age-never. This is the best age.And so is the next.

Binkytown said...

I keep thinking I'm at the best stage until I hit the next one and I think that's it.

creative-Type Dad (Tony) said...

We always get old people saying that kind of stuff to us. I don't get it.

I agree with some comments above, every age seems interesting to me just because I've never been through it. It's like an adventure without a map.

Kristen said...

I change my mind every time Leah does or says something new. 3 months was the best, then 10 months, and so on. Now 16 months is the best age because she says and does the cutest things...and I'm sure it will change again!

kittenpie said...

That was lovely, Chick! I personally asore toddlers, but really? From 18 months to about 8 is all good. Then trouble starts but hopefully, not too much.

mamatulip said...

What a great post this is! I've always felt like each age and stage has their ups and their downs, give or take. Enjoy the good and get through the bad, you know?

I loved this. :)

Jess Riley said...

Oh man, I wish I knew. All I can tell you is that 4 years (28 in dog years) is my favorite age for Daisy so far (minus when she still had puppy breath, because that was too damn adorable.)

But this sure as hell was a fantastic post!

Mrs. Davis said...

I loved the first 6 months with both my sons. The toddler years were/are hard for me, but after getting past that stage with our older son I have loved all of it (he's now six), and I can imagine loving the years ahead.

Mommy off the Record said...

Awesome. You have written a wonderful lesson--to enjoy every moment we have because it's all special, no matter what the age. Don't look back, don't look forward, just enjoy the present.

lildb said...

I was all ready with a comment, and then you sucker-punched me with those last lines about walking down an aisle for a diploma, etc., and *wham*. crying.

this post makes me sad because I'm always afraid I'm missing the best part. even though most of me knows that's bullshit, there are those doubts that say I'm missing it. missing what? hell if I know. but, argh.

anyway, your post is kind of what I needed to hear. thanks, sister.

blackbeltmama said...

Best age? It's wherever your child is at the time. All I know is that it goes entirely too fast.

sunshine scribe said...

Every time my son reaches a new stage I think "oh this is the best age" and then he grows and changes and we reach the next phase and I think the exact same thing. Well maybe not the first couple of months when I was PPD and he didn't sleep for longer than 20 minutes at a time. THat kinda sucked. But the rest? Golden :)

Mom101 said...

This is such a fantastic essay! One of your best.

I think there's no best age - there are just some ages any parent will relate to better than others. Some moms love newborns, some love toddlers, some relate much better once their kids are schoolage. I say, enjoy them all.

Her Bad Mother said...

This is going to sound unbearably corny, but nearly every day I think THIS is the best age. I just want to freeze her in the now (except, maybe, when it's 3am.)

Pendullum said...

Mrs. Chicky...
Don't hate me...
But I just tagged you in a Meme...
You have to go to my profiile and the tag is there...
I tagged you, attila, nikki, the blonde vigilante,and pinknest... ao you are not alone in hating me...
Looking forward to reading it! The tag that is...

Lisa said...

I have to disagree. When people would say, "They're so fun at that age" to me (and my child was 9 months or 18 months or 24 months) I would want to hit them with my purse. It was not, at least to me, the "best" age.

Right now, I treasure every second. Once my son hit 3 1/2 he is more independant and much more fun. So now that he's 4 and all of these crazy ideas form in his head and tumble out of his mouth -- I find this the best age. I feel like it will only get better. At least until he gets all mouthy at 12. heehee.

My guess is that you will LOVE every age. But yeah, you'll probably have a favorite few years...

sunshinedaily4me_wuz_here said...

As many have said, its EVERY age that is the most enjoyable, if you let it be. You just have to find the good in every stage and know each is fleeting. And as MOTR said, don't look back, don't look forward, just enjoy the present!

Fresh Mommy said...

So far I'm amazed at how my little girl just gets better and better every day. Watching her chew her food, listening to her say new words, seeing her dance around the room. Each day I think, can she really get any cuter than this? And she does, every day. Of course, we haven't reach 2 yet...

Bobita said...

You are right...each age has an admirer! And as a mother of three...I find myself loving every age for different reasons.

Although...I haven't had to set curfew for a teenager, yet! And I haven't had to tell my daughter to wear a longer skirt...or my son to keep his door open while his girlfriend visits...hmmmm. (I might have just scared myself into a panic attack!!)

:)

Ruth Dynamite said...

Wow - great post. I think that in order to assess the "best" of anything we need to be present in the moment. That way, the best time is always right now.

Nancy said...

I subscribe to the philosophy that every age is the best. It's amazing to watch the kids grow. The only thing is, I wish I could remember all the ages that have come before -- it's tough to look at my 4 1/2 year old now and remember what she was like at 1.