Have you ever thought about which age you liked best when your children were growing up?
I liked little babies because you can tuck them in their cribs and go read a novel. Toddlers because they are responsive; hold out your arms and they run into them.
Of course, if you take them shopping with you they disappear under dress racks or behind a Coca-Cola display. And you can’t find them until the intercom blares out, “We have a small, blonde child who can’t find her mommy.” And teenagers because they can drive to the grocery store when you realize you’re out of eggs and bread.
Some ages are more interesting than others, some more exhausting.
Just to watch a child running around makes my back hurt. But in the cool of the evening take that same tyke who’s bathed and powdered and ready for bed for a walk in the stroller, and you forget the crying and breaking and spilling and lifting and chasing that went on all day long.
The pink pajamas, the squeak of the wheels, sounds of the mockingbirds, the gradual sinking of the sun. Somehow, the baby hands that poked the dog’s eye, tipped over the coffee cup and banged the screen door a hundred times are as precious as a rose bud. And they look so unutterably innocent when they’re asleep.
All ages have their charm. I’ve had friends try to convince me that everybody needs a 10-year old boy. I didn’t have one of those, but I’m told that’s the age when a boy is the most company and pleasure.
Those friends seem to forget that a boy of that age isn’t concerned one bit about bathing or combing his hair. They’re satisfied that he can hang by his knees from the limb of a tree, and isn’t shy about telling you that he loves you, hugging you hard with bony arms.
But from what I can figure out, age 10 could be the last time in his life that a boy is eager to please you and is enthusiastic about helping you.
Girls seem to have their own brand of charm. My three had different personalities. One loved to dress up and play with dolls, another was a roller skater and a natural at arts and crafts. The youngest played softball and basketball and collected roadside junk walking home from school.
You think life is a long journey. Your children’s growing up days sometimes seems endless. They’re only little once, you remind yourself for the 10th time when you’re under the table mopping up red Kool-Aid, hobbling around because you stepped on a Lego or cutting Juicy Fruit gum from silky curls.
But, I’ve learned that colic, chicken pox, poison ivy, sprained ankles and teenage crises are the least of the tribulations of child rearing. You can cope with urgent situations and emergencies. What’s less bearable is when they grow up and you find that life is all too swift a journey.
Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.