When I was still in the lovesick phase of having a newborn, I heard a newly pregnant friend say that she wished the doctor would just hand her a preschooler in the hospital instead of an infant. They were much more fun at that age, she insisted, and could actually do things.
Of course I begged to differ, nuzzling my nose against the silky head of my perfectly soft little baby. But I didn’t say anything — because even then (pre-blog) I knew we were both right. There’s something wonderful about every stage of childhood, from the pure innocence (and dependence) of a newborn to the nuttiness of having a pre-teen. (Notice I’m not touching the teenage years.)
And yet, nine years after hearing that comment for the first time, I might actually believe it enough to say it myself. The preschool years are some of the best — from a parent’s perspective at least.
Just think about it. You’ve left behind the confusion of infancy, where you are always trying to guess if that cry means it’s time to eat or there’s diaper rash brewing.
You are mostly past the unpredictability of a toddler, who’s teetering on the edge of the forbidden stairs one minute and screaming on the floor for a “cwackie” the next (which means you will be wrong whether you hand over a cookie, a cracker or a lovey).
And you are starting to see the first inklings of independence. As in putting on underwear herself. (But not yet asking to be dropped off at the mall so she can buy underwear with your credit card at Gilly’s or Victoria’s.)
It’s a relief to finally arrive at the preschool years, because when my daughter turned three, I felt like I was actually starting to see the light. The preschool years, which span from three to the cusp of five years old, feel almost like a reward for all that time spent in the trenches, covered in spit-up and being a human teething ring.
Now it’s finally a two-way street and there’s lots of fun to be had.
Take today for instance. I woke up with her snuggling beside me, wondering exactly when she left her bed and climbed into mine last night. Then, as I packed a lunch for my son, she perused her camp calendar over breakfast and figured out what activities Thursday and Friday would bring. We talked about Ancient Egypt (from the point of view of the Backyardigans) and she put on her own shoes while I brushed my teeth.
Then, as we were walking out the door, she threw a comment my way that might as well have come from one of my co-workers: “I love those shoes and your bag is so cute.” (OMG, are we going to have fun shopping in a few years, or what?)
When I picked her up from camp, she was singing a made-up song with one of her friends while they rode trikes around in circles, giggling contagiously.
In the store a few minutes later, she walked close beside me, “helping” to push and asked if we had a coupon before dropping a Princess toothbrush into the cart. (Proof that there is hope for getting past the smuggling things out of the store stage.)
And tonight, after consoling her during an episode of Popsicle-induced brain freeze, I got about twelve I love yous — and a little hand rubbing my back as I tried to warm her up. It’s stuff like this — the mutual admiration, the unending curiosity, the half-innocent-half-enlightened conversations, the rapid learning — that makes me want to bottle up these days, weeks and months.
So if I could freeze-frame any part of childhood, it would most definitely be ages three and four. How about you? What is your favorite age?
See why Amanda is a fan of the toddler years — terrible twos included.