It's a good thing babies start out sweet. I'm convinced it helps to bond our hearts before we have to endure the two-year-old tantrums later. I love the sweet baby phase (where they don't talk back yet or climb out of carts while the whole store listens to screams) because they are simple creatures: keep them fed, change their diapers, give them lots of snuggles, and they are generally happy. Truthfully, it's the baby phase that has kept me ever considering more children after each one because I adore those fleeting moments of simplistic motherhood.
I know every parent has their favorite stage. My husband thrives more in the toddler years when they adore him (finally, after being solely momma's thanks to breastfeeding), and believe wholeheartedly in his magic tricks. My favorite is not the toddler years. I kinda hate the toddler years. Give me babies forever. The problem is, babies always grow up. Thus, this is why I have five kids so I could live those sweet moments a little longer in my motherhood timeline.
As I sit here with my fifth child now seven months old cooing at me from the floor nearby, I know what is ahead and I face it with dread. I dread knowing that within another half of a year I'll be thinking of her as I do of her two-year-old sister — Where did my sweet, happy child go? I dread more years of not wanting to leave the house because of tantrums and running away from me in the parking lot because logic is still a foreign concept. I dread having that fine line of her needing a nap, yet if she does she'll be up until midnight. I dread the extra stinky diapers and how sticky hand prints find their way on every surface within three feet off the ground. I dread the testing of boundaries and the ear drum piercing screams. I dread knowing I can't turn my back for even five minutes of potty time without her coloring on the walls. Worst of all, the whining. The whining voice kills me.
I know I'm not alone in this. Life with a toddler is rough. You never know which version of themselves you will get at any moment. Will they be the sweet version who sings cute little “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” songs in your lap? Or, the monster side where they scream “No!” even though they mean “Yes!” or throw their cup because it is the wrong color? It's like living with Jekyll and Hyde. I deal with enough fluctuating moods and hormones within myself. Why, oh, why do we have to endure it within a tiny dictator toddler as well? Is this preparation for the teenage years?
The good thing of having five children, though, is the perspective it brings. I've seen this dreaded phase come with every one of my children, and the good news is they all out grew it eventually, usually by four years old. By kindergarten, I dare say, I enjoy them much more as their personality blooms and a little patience and logic comes with it. I also know to treasure the sweet moments even more when the Jekyll side reveals itself and stays a while. It's a breath of fresh air amongst the stank diapers and attitude. It's hope that inside there still is sweetness of the baby that once was, hiding under the layers of frustration while figuring out this world.
I'm sure being a toddler is quite hard, just as it is to be a hormonal grown woman. So that too brings empathy to anchor me through the stormy toddler years. And, really, who can't love those chubby little cheeks that will soon melt away? Or, the twinkle in their eye as they add to their quickly expanding vocabulary saying things like, “I like you, mommy!” I'll take all the compliments I can get right now, kid. It holds me steady as we make our way through the dreaded toddler years together.