We have recently spent plenty of quality time with various friends and family members who have very small children. This is good, because it cures that "awww, let's have more babies, they're so cute" syndrome which can hit us from time to time now that our boys are all grimy and smelly and long, with so many elbows and knees and opinions on their own upbringing.
Even the ever popular "let's try for a girl" can be cured in just two short weekends.
Now, I am not saying that any of these kids are bad or spoiled or bratty in any way. They are all, in fact, lovely kids with nice manners, great personalities and a fine upbringing. They are cute, loving, and have not one single fault I can think of.
But they bring back memories of having a baby attached to my hip 24 hours a day. Memories of the sleepless years spent in all night nursing and changing a plumbing wonder, whose output surely exceeded his input by 72% or more. Memories of having to be THERE for every single bath, meal, sneeze, poop, bumped head, and dropped toy. All of which were major productions, and were not in the least interesting or exciting to me. I know that many parents live for mealtimes, coaxing one more bite of spinach into their child and then being filled with angst because little Jimmy doesn't EAT anything. This was never exciting to me, which probably means that I am a terrible mother. I enjoy cooking and eating, and I feel that if a person is hungry, they will eat. I am lucky, though. Chas and Sam love food, and Max keeps getting taller in spite of going days without a decent meal. I am sure he would happily live on nuts and bananas. We should just let him go and live with the monkeys in the zoo.
No, I would have to say that smelly, tall and opinionated as they are, I prefer my boys OVER the age of 2 or 3. Perhaps if they had not been born so close together - three boys in four years! - I would remember more than just exhaustion.
Do you know what I love best about a cup of tea? I love that it is HOT. You can brandish a cup of tea at a clingy toddler and say "oooh! Hot! HOT!" and they will keep a respectful distance while you sit BY YOURSELF for a moment of lap freedom. Even a one-year-old can carefully touch the side of your cup, blow theatrically on his fingers, and toodle off to play with blocks till you are all done.
This is way more effective than sobbing "just let me SIT DOWN by MYSELF for ten SECONDS!!" it even beats locking yourself in the bathroom, because no-one is pounding on the door in hysterics. I have been known to take a cup of tea with me to the bathroom, on an especially bad day, (leaving the door open) just so that no-one would try to climb onto my lap.
My kids used to come and check on my tea level, to see how much longer I would be. They would peep into my cup, sigh at the half-full status, and go back to their play. Many is the cup of tea that I allowed to get cold, for an extra 10 minutes of teatime!
Once my little angels were used to the "cup of tea as force field" idea, I could even fill a mug with tap water and settle myself comfortably with a book for 15 minutes. Anyone who came near got the mug thrust towards them. "HOT! HOT! Mummy is having her tea, so wait!"
When I remember having to resort to such extreme measures, just to sit down; when I see my sweet, un-clingy niece crying "uuup! Uuup!" to a daddy who CANNOT pick her up because he is CARRYING a baby bag, sack of dirty clothes, wet baggies and towels, etc, for heavens sakes!! And my normally perfect niece is having a meltdown because, um, well, maybe she is tired? Hungry? Teething? Having a growth spurt? Abducted by aliens and replaced by "pod-child, the whiny terror"? Well, at those times, I just love not having a small child.
Because babies and small children are all-encompassing, needy creatures. They need to be this way, because every second their brains are processing information about their world. They need to be held, to understand that this is a good place. They need to be comforted at night, all night, to learn that dark is nice and cosy not scary. They need to breastfeed on demand, because only they know when they are hungrier than yesterday. They need to be washed and changed several times a day, to avoid rashes. A small child should never be left lonely, hungry or afraid because that will only teach them loneliness, hunger and fear.
This makes for a rough couple of years for a parent. But there is hope! The babies grow up! They become independent, helpful, responsible members of the family, and best of all they become really, really interesting. Our family can decide on the spur of the moment to go somewhere cool, and the boys will bathe, dress, and have the car packed in no time. They will eat anything, anywhere. They will sleep when they feel sleepy. They can wipe their own bottoms and noses. They don't have a meltdown if their routine is off or if it's past bedtime. They can make a sandwich. We play games, have lively discussions, enjoy the same music,(mostly!) and have FUN.
And best of all! I can still borrow a niece or nephew or godchild, ANYTIME! I can kiss their little fat knees, bounce them on my lap, discuss the merits of barbie princess nighties, sing lullabies, make them laugh at the same HILARIOUS joke 15 times, lie down with them while they fall asleep and gaze into their sweet faces, stroke their soft curls (or bald fuzzy head)... And then give them back.