My kids are getting older, and sometimes I catch myself staring wistfully at the parents of infants, standing in the grocery store check-out lane. Everyone oohs and awws over their super cute baby and it's chubby cheeks. Anyone else walk past the baby aisle at Target, knowing you'll never need to pensively compare bottle nipples or swaddling blankets again? Many people my age are just starting their families, make it it feels a little strange to be in such a different place with mine. Literally, my oldest is in her last year she can go in the kid's zone at Wegman's (a local grocer). Seriously.... aged out of it. Also, eating out at restaurants is getting pretty expensive... there's no more of this ordering a side or little kid meals to get them fed.
SO - Instead of feeling all sad at the lack of adorable footie-pajamas in my life, I'm reflecting on the magic of having older children. Babies are cute, but honestly there are just SO many benefits when they start evolving into walking, talking, opinionated mini-people!
The kids can't pass up a photo op. Taken at the Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY!
Reasons Why Having Older Kids Is Amazing
- Activities and trips are more bearable! The stress of meltdowns, snacks, diaper changes, and watching them every.single.second is lessening. Older kids can understand instructions, tell you when they're worn out, and enjoy things that the entire family is into.
- Shared interests! Maybe it's music, Harry Potter, or riding bikes together but when they beg you to help them with something, you really want to! My daughter has asked to learn to knit, watch the Chronicles of Narnia movies together, and other things we both find enjoyable. It's a whole new world of bonding.
- Being in a different room than the kids, without utter disaster. I can be painting at the kitchen table, and they can be in the next room playing without my hovering the entire time. I mean, when I hear a shriek I respond, but it isn't constant (most days). We make sure we spend plenty of family time together, but a little independence is also a healthy thing.
- SLEEP. Need I say more?
- Conversations! We can talk about current events (in kid friendly terms), what happened at school, and what they want to be when they grow up. BONUS: not having to translate what they are saying all of the time, to everyone else. I miss my kids' funny little toddler voices and lisps, but love that they now enunciate.
- Seeing their personalities really develop. Our oldest kids is learning Japanese from apps on her tablet, and our son is an incredible problem-solver with laser-focus. We can start imagining what they will be when they grow up, and helping them develop their natural skills and interests.
- More hands to make the household run! We're big believers in chores in our house, so having little hands helping unload the dishwasher and haul out the recycling means the grown-ups getting even more done. Or... actually sitting down for a minute.
- Fleeting moments become more special. When you're holding a baby, you're ALWAYS HOLDING THAT BABY. Like, 20 out of 24 hours. Probably in your sleep, you're still holding the baby. An older kid is a little more frugal with their snuggles (or, they are just too busy running around) so when they stop and lean against you and snuggle up, it's magical.
- Help unloading shopping carts. Errands get a little easier!
- They can tell you what is going on! Their ear hurts? You don't have to watch for tugging... they say stuff like, "Ouch, my ear really hurts". Not always, but a it becomes more likely. Or, they can tell you someone was mean to them, what they are scared of, if they are tired, etc. Instead of deciphering different types of crying, you can ask follow-up questions.
- They can roll their own little luggage on wheels! Their airplane tickets will only get more expensive, but at least you don't have to haul a diaper bag and umbrella stroller around! Also, they can watch a movie on an iPad, or play a game with a little more attention-span.
- Making their own snacks and/or meals. Our daughter is so very proud she learned how to make oatmeal (from packets) in the microwave, toast, and can pour herself a bowl of cereal with milk. She loves the independence so much, she gets up early enough every morning to make breakfast before we get to the kitchen. PBJs are also easy enough for the kids to make. We keep a basket of healthy snacks they can reach, too - we generally supervise, and it doesn't replace family meals but it's a great way for them to learn skills.
- Finding lost stuff. You can yell, "everybody look for my phone!" and have way more eyes focused on the goal. Once, when the cat somehow lost her collar, I was paying a dime for piece of furniture they searched under. (We eventually found it in a dresser drawer.)
- Childcare costs decreasing (depending on your situation)! This was a BIG one for us. Full-time childcare in our area is some of the most expensive in the nation, and while our incomes still made it worth it, it was pretty painful writing that check every month. We both work full-time, so we still have after-school costs to deal with, but it's manageable. Kid's get more expensive in some way (food, sports) but if you were paying for full-time daycare you know how amazing it is to watch those bills disappear!
- Clothes last longer. Okay, maybe not... depending on your kid and if they are in a growth spurt. With babies, I remember buying a cute onesie and the baby growing out of it by the time I even ripped the tag off! With older kids, that t-shirt probably gets at least a few months (if not a few years) of life. Ours kid's clothes are much more likely to wear out before they stop fitting.
- Car seats = so much easier! Regardless of whether you extended-rear-face or move them up to the next seat stage the moment they hit the right weight, the whole thing gets easier as they get older. They learn to buckle themselves in, and can use a built-in cup-holder.
- BRIBES. If these work for your kids, it can speed things along great.
- Kids' are hilarious! Seriously... they come up with the craziest stuff. Need to kill 10 minutes while stuck in traffic? Ask your nine-year-old their theory on celebrities, or who the naughtiest kid in class is, and why. One holiday, we got both kid's joke books and they kept them in the car to entertain us during the commute.
- Teaching them stuff you think is important. Like, helping people or being polite. It's your chance to instill some values on them before they go out into the big wide world and wreck havoc.
- Less gear in theliving room! Well, the amount of Legos or Shopkins you step on increases tremendously (and painfully). But unless you replace the bouncers and baby swings with big gaming systems, you probably have some extra room! Things that used to fill up our living space included walking toys, play mats, pack n' plays, swings, and more. We are no longer hitting our shins on the side of the highchair every time we walk around the table!
First day of school, showing their true colors.
I'm glad I cherished the moments with my babies, but these big kids are pretty cool too. What did I leave out?